180 Million years ago, during the Mesozoic Era, “The Breaks” in an area now lying across Kentucky and Virginia, a vast inland sea receded, leaving in its wake a veritable cradle of botany. Meanwhile the river that is now Russell Fork got about the work of carving out an immense, spectacular gorge, renowned as the largest east of the Mississippi.
12,000 – 8,000 B.C., the first Native Americans to call Kentucky home, the Paleoindians, moved into Kentucky. The Clovis people were the very first Paleoindians. Clovis people settled first in Western Kentucky in areas that bordered major rivers. Over time, as population increased, bands moved eastward into new territories. Clovis people settled last in the Eastern Kentucky mountains. By 8,000 years ago at the start of the Archaic Period, people were living all across Kentucky, their permanent home.
8,000 – 1,000 B.C., like their Paleoindian ancestors, Archaic peoples were nomadic hunter-gatherers, although the foods they are were different. Archaic peoples hunted white-tailed deer, small animals, birds, and fish, rather than mastodons. Their diet also included hickory nuts, fruit, and seeds. Toward the end of the Archaic period, people began to experiment with growing their own plant foods. Archaic peoples camped in the open near streams and lived in rock shelters. Home territories were smaller than in Paleoindian times and sometimes overlapped. Long distance exchange began toward the end of the Archaic Period in some Kentucky regions. Groups traded ornaments made from marine shell, copper, or nonlocal stone.
500 B.C. – 200 A.D., the Adena people lived in small camps, often on terraces by streams or on ridgetops, and rock shelters. They moved within their home territories to best make use of seasonal wildlife and plants. They did not always return to their campsites year after year. Their homes would have been small, around 200 square feet, and most of their daily activities wold have taken place outside.
1000, Woodland Period including the Adena culture (mounds, a burial complex and ceremonial system. The Adena lived in a variety of locations, including: Ohio, Indiana, West Virginia, Kentucky, and parts of Pennsylvania and New York.) and Hopewell cultures. Although the first use of coal in Kentucky is unknown, Hopi Indians, living in what is now Arizona, are known to have used coal to bake pottery made from clay more than 1,000 years ago.
900 – 1750, A Fort Ancient peoples were hunter-gatherer-farmers. They lived in villages. Early examples were small scatters of houses. But by A.D. 1200, villages were larger with between 90 and 180 inhabitants. They arranged rectangular houses in a circle around a central plaza. Storage pits and outdoor working areas were located near each house. The plaza was the center of trading and ceremonial life. Villages became larger after A.D. 1400, and circular villages became uncommon. These larger villages housed 250-500 people.
The earliest known contact with Europeans occurred in 1540, when a party of Cherokee warriors successfully defended their northwestern border against the advances of Hernando DeSoto and his Spanish soldiers. They forced the Spanish to retreat from Kentucky to the north side of the Ohio River at present-day Fort Massac, Illinois.
Interestingly, the word Cherokee comes from the 1557 Portuguese narrative of DeSoto’s expedition, which was then written as chalaque. It is derived from the Choctaw word, choluk, which means cave. Mohawk call the Cherokee oyata’ge’ronoñ, which means people who live in caves or in the cave country. In Catawba, the Cherokee are called mañterañ, which translates as the people who come out of the ground. Kentucky is a land of caves and home to the longest cave in the world.
British colonists in Virginia establish a trade network with Cherokee living in the Appalachian Mountains. Ref: 29
The Cherokees and Creeks side with the French during Queen Anne’s War. Ref: 29
Cherokee strengthen their alliance with the British. Ref: 29
Perhaps the earliest evidence of an English trader with Cherokee in Kentucky is in Wolfe County, where a date of 1717 occurs with traditional symbols of Anitsisqua, the Cherokee Bird Clan, incised on a sandstone outcrop overlooking Panther Branch.
The Treaty of Albany is made between the Tuscarawas joined the Haudenosaunee, a confederacy of Iroquoian speaking peoples that included the Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas, and Senecas with a goal to control an area from southern Canada to Kentucky. Cherokee claims to Kentucky were seriously challenged.
Shawnee lead a French expedition to Big Bone Lick. Ref: 29
The Shawnee were serving as guides into northern Kentucky for the French military who considered Kentucky part of New France. At this time, the Cherokee were busy fighting the Choctaw, Creek, and Yamasee to the south for their British allies. As a gesture of thanks, Sir Alexander Cuming took principal Cherokee Chiefs to England with him in 1730 including Attakullakulla, Clogoittah, Kollannah, Onancona, Oukah Ulah, Skalilosken Ketagustah, and Tathtowe. Although this visit strengthened allegiance with the British, the Cherokee population in Kentucky and elsewhere was cut in half by smallpox just eight years later making it difficult to defend their northern borders. To make matters worse, the Creek and Choctaw had allied themselves with the French.
Smallpox infects Native Americans living in the Appalachian Mountains. Ref: 29
Shawnee lead a second expedition to Big Bone Lick. Ref 29
Captain Charles de Longueuil sxplores Kentucky. The French claimed most of the land, establishing trading post with help of the local Indians.
April 17, 1750, the 687.9 mile long Cumberland River was named by explorer, Dr. Thomas Walker. It is believed that he named the river in honor of William Augustus (1721-65), the Duke of Cumberland, third and youngest son of George II of Great Britain. The Cumberland is the only river in Kentucky that runs south and then changes course to run north. It begins in Harlan County, flows through Nashville and empties into the Ohio River in Smithland, in Livingston County. Ref: 16
John Finley, from Pennsylvania, was taken captive by Shawnee Native Americans near the Falls of the Ohio. He was taken to the Native American villages in the Kentucky lowlands, where he was “one of the first” non-Native Americans to see the fertile forests and prairies that later became known as the Bluegrass Country of Kentucky. Within a short amount of time, the Shawnees released Finley, and he made his way back to the settlements on the Pennsylvania frontier. Although there was a growing demand for new lands to settle, his reports of the Bluegrass Country were not followed up on due to the outbreak of the French and Indian War in 1754. In that conflict, Finley befriended frontiersman Daniel Boone and the rest is history. In 1796 Finley was given a 1,000 acre tract of land in Fleming County. Ref: 16
May 28, 1754, the French and Indian War began.
The Cherokee take a partisan position against the French at the request of the Haudenosaunee and establish a village at the mouth of the Kentucky River, a strategic location in attacks against French traders and Americans that are sympathetic to the French. Ref: 29
Mary Inglis was the first reported white women in Kentucky. She came to the area as captive of the Shawnee Native Americans. She and a Dutch woman escaped from Big Bone Lick and were later rescued along the Ohio River banks. State Highway Route 8, in Northern Kentucky, was named for her in 1924. Ref: 17
Cherokee land claims were from the Southern bank of the Kanawha through Kentucky into Tennessee and south into Georgia and the Carolinas. Some Shawnee groups were also found in the southern states (as far south as Alabama) but later most went back north into Kentucky and Ohio.
September 3, 1763, Treaty of Paris was signed. France gave up all mineral resource and land claims to Kentucky. In exchange for their help during the war, the British victors proclaimed that Kentucky was to be recognized as Indian Territory and no person could make a treaty with the Cherokee or buy land from them without their permission. While the treaty of 1763 allowed the Cherokee to retain all of their land in Kentucky, their possession was short-lived.
September 17, 1769, Lucy (Virgin) Downs, thought to be the first white child born west of the Allegheny Mountains, was born in what is now Fayette County, Pennsylvania, to Jeremiah and Lucy Virgin. In 1790 the family moved to Maysville. She relocated with a brother to Cincinnati in 1792 and was married there on September 20, 1800, to John Downs. She died in 1847 and was buried in Oldtown near the Little Sandy River in Greenup County, where she had resided for forty years.
December 22, 1769, Members of Daniel Boone’s hunting party were captured by the Shawnee, near Eskippakithiki. The Shawnee took the hides that the men had collected and most of their supplies. They released the men, Boone and Stewart, leaving them enough food for their journey home. The Shawnee gave them the warning, “never to come back or the wasps and yellow jackets would sting them”. Boone and Stewart did not leave Kentucky and they were recaptured a short time later, but they were able to escape.
October 18, 1770, which moved the northeastern boundary of Cherokee country from the New River of West Virginia to the land within the extreme western corner of Kentucky, today known as Pike County. Two years later, Great Britain requested yet another treaty to purchase all of the land between the Ohio and Kentucky rivers.
January 5, 1773, Fincastle County, Virginia officially took effect when the Virginia Legislature created it in late 1772 out of Botetourt County, VA. Botetourt County’s boundaries included present day Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana and parts of Ohio, West Virginia and Virginia. The newly created Fincastle County existed until 1776 and existed of today’s Kentucky’s borders plus more land in Virginia. Ref: 1
September 25, 1773, Daniel Boone and his family, with five other families set out for Kentucky. He was joined in Powell’s Valley with 40 other men where they accepted him as their leader. Ref:24
June 16, 1774, Fort Harrod, Kentucky’s first white settlement was established. James Harrod lead a group of 30-37 men down the Ohio River, then up the Kentucky River, to Landing Run Creek. They then traveled overland until they crossed the Salt River to a large spring in what is present day Harrodsburg in Mercer County. They erected cabins and surveyed one acre in lots and 10 acre out lots that became the footprint for their new town. Fort Harrod was also referred to as Harrod’s Town or Oldtown.
July 8, 1774, two men under James Harrod’s leadership at Oldtown were killed by a Shawnee attacked when a small group was surveying the Fontainbleau Spring area. The others escaped back to the Salt River camp, three miles away.
August 27, 1774, Richard Henderson organized the Louisa Company for the purpose of purchasing a “large territory or tract of land on the western waters from the Indian tribes” and establishing a proprietary colony.
October 10, 1774, The Battle of Point Pleasant — known as the Battle of Kanawha in some older accounts — was the only major action of Dunmore’s War. As a result of successive attacks by Indian hunting and war bands upon the settlers, war was declared. It was fought primarily between Virginia militia and Indians from the Shawnee and Mingo tribes. The Battle of Point Pleasant forced Cornstalk to make peace in the Treaty of Camp Charlotte, ceding to Virginia the Shawnee claims to all lands south of the Ohio River (today’s states of Kentucky and West Virginia).
January 6, 1775, Henderson reorganized the Louisa Company, adding new members and forming the Transylvania Company, with an agreement outlining the form of government the new colony would take. Henderson commissioned Daniel Boone to begin land purchase negotiations with the Cherokee nation.
March 11-15,1775, settlers returned to James Harrod’s settlement and it was continuously occupied from that point on. Many of the 50 men who came back were the same members of Harrod’s expedition the previous year, returning after the Shawnee signed the Treaty of Camp Charlotte with Lord Dunmore months earlier. The settlement would be known as Fort Harrod, which is now Harrodsburg.
March 17, 1775, the Transylvania Purchase aka The Treaty of Sycamore Shoals, the largest private or corporate real estate transaction in United States history, took place. The Transylvania Company, purchased from the Cherokee Indians over 20 million acres of land-all the lands of the Cumberland River watershed and extending to the Kentucky River. In return the Cherokee received 2000 pounds sterling and goods worth 8000 pounds. Twelve-hundred Indians reputedly spent weeks in counsel at Sycamore Shoals prior to the signing of the deed; Chief Dragging Canoe was firmly against deeding land to the whites, but the other chiefs ignored his warnings and signed the deeds amidst great ceremony and celebration.
March 25, 1775, unconscious of danger while lying asleep in a camp at a point in Madison County about 15 miles south of the future Boonesborough, Native Americans attacked before dawn. Captain Twitty and his Negro servant Sam were mortally wounded. Captain Boone rallied his men and held ground till day break.
March 27, 1775, possibly the same Native American party as two days earlier attacked six of Boone’s men who were camped, killing two and wounding three. Because of this attack and the severe injuries to Captain Twitty, a temporary log shelter was constructed as a protective defensive position for the rest of the party. Within a few days, Twitty died and was buried along with Sam at the site. The temporary structure became known as “Twitty’s Fort” or “The Little Fort” and continued to exist for many years.
April 1, 1775, the construction of Kentucky’s first permanent fort began. This eventually became the town and fort of Boonesborough. Richard Henderson, who had initially hired Boone to open the trail, was alarmed at the numerous Native American attacks. After receiving a determined letter from Boone, however, Henderson joined the party at Boonesborough a few weeks later.
APRIL 19, 1775, AMERICAN REVOLUTION BEGINS.
May 3, 1775, Captain John Floyd arrived at Boonesborough from a camp on Dick’s River where he left 30 men. He was a surveyor of Fincastle County under Colonel Preston, a rival jurisdiction. Ref 24
May 7, 1775, Boone had traveled into the woods trying to find a stray horse. He had stayed all night and upon his return he found Captain Harrod and Colonel Slaughter from Harrodstown on the Salt River. The men were of great mood. Ref 24
May 23, 1775, the first Transylvania Convention opened at Fort Boonesborough. The elected representatives were from Harrodsburg, Boiling Springs, St. Asaph and Boonesborough. In only four days the legislatures passed nine laws: addressing a court system, regulation of a militia, prohibition of swearing and Sabbath-breaking, rules for the payment of debts, clerk’s and sheriff’s fees, improvement of horse breeding and game preservation. These laws reflected the settlers dependence on game for food, good horses and an ever-ready militia for defense against Native Americanss. The governments of VA, NC and James Harrod immediately denounced the Transylvania Company as land pirates. The Transylvania government, with Harrodsburg as its capitol, was to be short-lived.
May 27, 1775, the convention finished in good order. Ref: 24
Sunday, May 28, 1775, Boonesborough hosted the first recorded public worship service in Kentucky. It was conducted by the Anglican Church, Episcopalian clergyman, the Rev. John Lyth. The service closed the first legislative session west of the Alleghany Mountains: “The Transylvania Convention.”
June 4/5 1775, a group of eight hunters and or explores from Harrod’s Fort came to Central Kentucky to establish a settlement north of the Kentucky River. They camped at a large spring, later known as McConnell’s Spring, which was and still is located on today’s Manchester Street, in downtown Lexington. The camp had received word that America had won the first battle of the American Revolution. This first battle was fought near Lexington, Massachusetts and they were so inspired, they decided to name the place they were camping and the settlement they were planning “Lexington.” A small cabin was built by William McConnell, but due to Native Americans’ threats no settlement was made and the party returned to the safety of Fort Harrod.
June 14, 1775, at the insistence of Judge Henderson the first fortified camp ever built in Kentucky was christened “Boonesborough.” Ref 24
September 25, 1775, the proprietors of Transylvania met in Granville County, North Carolina, and elected James Hogg to represent them in the Continental Congress in seeking recognition as the fourteenth colony. The Continental Congress, however, failed to grant Transylvania its independence.
July 14, 1776, Boonesborough – Jemima Boone (Boone’s 2nd daughter), Francis “Fanny” and Elizabeth “Betsy” Callaway were captured by the Shawnee, they made their escape by canoe. They were rescued by Boone and his party two days later.
August 7, 1776, the first recorded marriage in Kentucky took place at Fort Boonesborough. Elizabeth (Betsy) Callaway married Samuel Henderson. The ceremony was performed by Squire Boone, who was a Baptist elder as well as an accomplished Native American fighter. Samuel Henderson had been a member of Daniel Boone’s rescue party and had rescued his bride, her sister and Jermima Boone from the Native Americans, three weeks earlier. As was customary at such frontier celebrations, there was much fiddle music and dancing as well as the good banter which accompanied such events. One of the features of the celebration of this wedding was the treating of the guests to home-grown watermelon, the first grown at the Boonesborough settlement and of which the entire settlement was very proud.
December 7, 1776, Kentucky County was created by the Virginia legislature. Virginia divided their Fincastle County, VA into Washington County, VA, Montgomery County, VA, and Kentucky County, VA. Clark’s and Jones’s meeting was a success. Virginia voided the Transylvania Purchase but also compensated Richard Henderson with 200,000 acres in the region of what is now Henderson County. Henderson’s dream of creating an independent colony ended.
December 31, 1776, Virginia’s new counties (Washington, Montgomery & Kentucky) officially took effect. Kentucky County’s boundaries were essentially the same boundaries as Kentucky is today. Harrodsburg became the seat of Kentucky County two years after the county was formed. Ref: 1 & 16.
By 1777, 300 people had left Kentucky and 7 stations were abandoned due to raids by the Native Americans. All settlements in Kentucky except Boonesborough, Harrodsburg and Logan’s Fort had been abandoned for fear of Native Americans. Referred to by the early settlers of Kentucky as the “Three Bloody Sevens” or the “Year of War.” Native American attacks were frequent and extremely violent. They regularly set fire to the Fort Harrod, stole all the horses and either ate, stole or burned all of the crops. They scalped the pioneers, dead or alive. Many pioneers and their children died and were buried beyond the south wall of the fort. The pioneer cemetery still exists today in its original location.
January 30, 1777, Fort Harrod is reinforced by the arrival of George Rogers Clark, McClellands, Robert Patterson, Captain Edward Worthington, Robert Todd and others. and the familes of several of them. They had traveled from McClellands’ Fort in Georgetown where they had been attacked and were assured of more to come.
February 1777, Logan’s Fort was completed by Benjamin Logan and friends. The founders spent a great deal of time traveling between Fort Harrod and their new fort until completed. Logan’s Station provided a refuge for families making their way west to lands in Kentucky County, VA. The fort is also referrd to as Logan’s Station, St. Asaph, or Fort Logan. It was one of the three oldest settlements in Kentucky, along Fort Harrod and Fort Boonesborough. From this fort came the town of Stanford, just a bit to the east, becoming one of the state’s oldest towns.
Sometimes up to 19 single men lived in the fort, along with seven families. When danger from Native Americans brewed, settlers were called back into the fort for protection. Lincoln County courts were held at Logan’s Fort from 1781-83. Notable events at the fort were Daniel Boone’s court martial and James Harrod’s marriage to Ann McDonald. By 1780, most of the families had permanently left the fort, according to McBride. “Documents suggest a possible house there in 1820, probably another house by the 1850s, and the one standing today. An additional complication was that the L&N railroad put a track through the site in the 1860s.
March 8, 1777, the warriors set fires to isolated cabins at Fort Harrod to draw the settlers out. The settlers fought their way through the woods, and made it to the fort with four settlers wounded and one killed.
May 20, 1777, Logan’s Fort was attacked by Native Americans who were supported by British troops and a 13 day siege began. The fort was sheltering seven families, including those of Benjamin Logan and William Whitley, six single men, a free African American and the rest women. The Siege left two men dead but the fort survived. This was the first attack in the area during the terrible sevens.
July 4, 1777, Fort Boonesborough was subjected to the heaviest and most serious attack. British Chief Black Fish, with a force of 200 warriors surrounded the fort and began to attack. Daniel Boone and his garrison had discovered the attack force and had warned the settlement well in advance. Constant firing against the stockade and repeated attempts to set fire to the fort by fire arrows and torches thrown over the stockade kept the citizens at the portholes continually. Women and girls molded bullets, loaded spare rifles, cooked and distributed food, rationed water and attended children and livestock without rest. During this attack the Native Americans destroyed the remaining crops near the fort. On the morning of July 6, the Native Americans, discouraged by their failure, withdrew before daylight taking with them their seven dead and several wounded warriors. The garrison lost one man and two were wounded.
September 2, 1777, Kentucky’s first official court session was held in Fort Harrod. The elected judges were: John Bowman, Richard Callaway, John Floyd, John Todd and Benjamin Logan, who also served as the Sheriff. John May was official surveyor and Levi Todd was clerk. The court took a census at Fort Harrod: 81 Arms bearing men, including 4 unfit for service, 28 Women, 70 Children, including 12 under the age of 10, 19 Slaves, including 7 under the age of 10. Total population of Harrodstown aka Fort Harrod was 198. Not util 1785 was the name changed to Harrodsburg.
September 11, 1777, a company of 37 men were sent to Captain Joseph Bowman to help shell corn. While shelling, they were fired upon by Native Americans. Eli Garrard killed, Daniel Brahan mortally and five others seriously.
January 1, 1778, in a desperate need for salt, Boone led an expedition to Blue Licks. The team included 30 men from the three forts. The job of salt making at Blue Licks was especially difficult during the winter and the men’s job was not completed till the end of the month.
February 7, 1778, Daniel Boone was hunting by himself, with horse and rifle, in a snow-storm. He had killed a buffalo, tied the best of the meat upon his horse, and was trudging for camp, when four Indians surprised him. A date long remembered by the settlers of the Kentucky frontier, he was captured by the Shawnee and British near Blue Licks. Fort Boonesborough saw some of its darkest days as they feared Boone was dead. Boone however understood the nature of the Native Americans and the Shawnees treated him well. He had killed a number of their warriors, but only when fighting man to man against odds. He trusted the word of Chief Black Fish. Black Fish seemed to have a genuine liking for him and adopted him as his son, giving Boone the name of Sheltowee (Big Turtle). Having learned some of the native language, Boone caught wind of an impending attack and escaped to warn the fort after five months in capture.
May 27, 1778, Corn Island in the Ohio River is where the small band of pioneers who established Louisville first settled. During the following summer George Rogers Clark trained recruits for his Illinois campaign on the island, and the settlers planted corn and camped there until the fort on shore, Fort Nelson, was built in 1781. Part of Corn Island washed away and the rest was submerged when the dam at the Falls of the Ohio was built in the 1920s. It was mapped by Thomas Hutchins in 1766, at which time it measured 4,000 feet long and 1,000 feet wide, encompassing about seventy acres. It extended along the waterfront of present-day Louisville from 5th to 14th Streets, with its southernmost point near the first river pier of the K & I Railroad Bridge. During the late 1700s, the island was covered in “great sycamores, cottonwoods, and giant cane”. The Island was named for the first crop grown there, corn.
June 20, 1778, Daniel Boone arrived back at Fort Boonesborough after being held captive for approximately 5 months by the Shawnee. Mr. Boone made the brave escape from his captures when he became aware of their plan to attack Fort Boonesborough. His arrival was critical in warning the inhabitants of the fort of the impending attack. He had abandoned his horse after a few miles and made the rest of the way on foot. He covered over 160 miles in four days, eating only one meal and a bit of jerked venison en-route. For 10 days the fort was a beehive of activity. The main gates were strengthened, the stockade at the gates and between the outer cabins was completed or repaired. No attack came but it did lead directly to the Great Siege of Fort Boonesborough in September.
July 17, 1778, one of the men taken prisoner taken at the Salt Camp, William Hancock, returned to Fort Boonesborough. He had news that Boone’s escapee did in fact delay the intended attack on the fort.
September 7, 1778, the Great Siege of Fort Boonesborough began on a Monday morning, when the best war chiefs of the Shawnee, an estimated 444 Native Americans, 12 Frenchmen and one Negro, surrounded the fort. The Native Americans’ intention was not to attack but to escort the settlers to Detroit. Shawnee Chief Black Fish’ and Daniel Boone’s entourages finally agreed meet at the gate to discuss terms. As a token of good faith, the chief brought seven roasted buffalo tongues, little did they know how welcome these were to the half-starved settlers. The settlers had voted not to leave the fort, thus the siege began. The siege lasted nine days and had broken all records for sieges of Native Americans warfare in Kentucky. The courage, the tenacity and the strength of the defenders had triumphed. In retrospect, historians have pointed out repeatedly that, had Fort Boonesborough fallen, undoubtedly the other two stations in KY, Fort Harrodsburg and Fort Logan, would also have been destroyed and the Kentucky frontier emptied from settlement. Had this happened, it is possible that those of us living in Kentucky today would be citizens of Canada rather than of the United States of America.
April 1, 1779, Col. Robert Patterson led a group of 25 men from Harrodsburg and began erecting the first block-house in Lexington. This structure was surrounded by a stockade located on a spring that emptied into a stream nearby. This garrison was built in the shape of a parallelogram and was a defense against Native Americans. It was located near the corner of what is now Main and Mill streets in Lexington. Lexington was permanently established this year.
October 13, 1779, the Virginia legislature began to execute a plan and formed a committee, Virginia Land Commission, to resolve the issue of proper ownership of the lands in the new territory. The commission traveled from fort to fort and awarded land to settlers who could prove their valid claims. These actions help increase the stability of the area and migration began to increase from the East. A healthy ’79 corn crop also helped.
March 8, 1780, Colonel Richard Callaway, Pemberton Rawlings and three negro slaves were working on Callaway’s ferry boat about a mile above the settlement at Boonesborough, when they were fired upon by a party of Shawnee. Callaway was killed, scalped and burned. When his body was recovered, it was noted that the Native Americans had rolled the body in the mud. Pemberton Rawlings was mortally wounded in the attack and also died. The two comrades were buried in a single grave within the old fort or stockade at Boonesborough. One slave escaped to the fort to tell the news and the other two slaves were captured by the Native Americans and never heard of again.
“Probably no single man accomplished more than did Colonel Richard Callaway in laying the foundation that culminated in the admission of Kentucky into the Union on June 1, 1792.” This was a quote by R. Alexander Bate A.B., M.D, in an article published in The Filson Club History Quarterly [volume 29, no. 1, January 1955, Louisville, Kentucky].
March 20, 1780, the town trustees appropriated “the sum of thirty pounds gold and granted one acre of ground to build a courthouse, prison and office, provided that court was to be held in Lexington.” The trustees later set aside Lot No. 11, located on the northwest corner of Main Cross and Main Streets. During the spring of 1782, the first courthouse was finished. The two-story building was built of logs, with two rooms per floor (each 18 by 18 feet). Rooms were heated by a fireplace on each end. Ref: 3 & 6
November 1, 1780, the Virginia Assembly divided Kentucky County into Fayette, Lincoln and Jefferson. Kentucky County included the territory which essentially had the same boundary as the state does today. At the time, the new county was home to five communities: Boonesborough (Madison Couny), Harrodsburg, St. Asaph (later called Logan’s Station in Standford, KY), McClelland’s Station (Georgetown, KY) and Leestown (Frankfort, KY). Harrodsburg was first the county seat of Kentucky County, Virginia.
September 13, 1781, the Long Run Massacre occurred near present day Eastwood on the Falls Trace. At the massacre site, the trace intersects the Long Run of Floyd’s Fork, hence the name. It was one of the frontier’s battles that pitted American Settlers against the British and Native Americans. The previous day, settlers at Squire Boone’s Painted Stone Station, north of present day Shelbyville, learned of a large raid, 400-500 strong and decided to head west to seek refuge at Beargrass Station. The party was escorted by Captain James Welch from Ft. Nelson. The Native Americans attacked the party at the 13-mile tree, approximately 8 miles from Linn’s Station. A running battle resulted for almost a mile. Some fought with bravery while others abandoned their neighbors. At least seven pioneers were killed but some claim more than 10 lost their lives. The native Americans lives lost is unknown. Most of the survivors reached Linn’s Station that night. The defeat was followed the next day by Floyd’s Defeat, an even costlier battle with the Native Americans.
September 16, 1781, Abraham Lincoln’s, grandfather was killed in an ambush on Long Run Creek, east of Middletown. The next day, John Floyd was killed four miles east of Middletown. Middletown was officially established in 1797 by landowner Philip Buckner. The name Middletown was apparently chosen because the town was midway between Louisville and Shelbyville.
In the winter of 1781-82 plans were made for a grand assembly of Native Americans to make plans for a joint expedition against Kentucky. The assembly was to meet in the summer at the Shawnee capitol of Old Chillicothe and attended by the chiefs and warriors of all the tribes under British influence: Shawnee, Mingo, Delaware, Wyandot, Pottawattomies and Cherokee. It was decided that the tribes were to meet at Chillicothe in August and march against Kentucky.
March 1, 1782, a party of 25 Wyandot surprised Strode’s station. They held a 36 hour siege, killed two settlers and destroyed all the sheep and cattle. When Captain James Estill and his men went looking for the Wyandot known to be in the area, the war party surrounded his station and killed one woman. They thought the fort to be well defended, so they left. Captain Estill followed them to Little Mountain Creek. Estill’s men fought the Wyandot for two hours and were defeated. The Wyandot took out Estill and all but five of his men.
April 8, 1782, John Floyd, his brother, Charles and Alexander Breckinridge were travelling from Floyd’s Station on Beargrass Creek to a point on Salt River. They were attacked by Native Americans and John was seriously injured. With his death two days later, Kentucky had lost two of her three county lieutenants in less than eight months. Ref: 26
May 5/6, 1782, the town of Lexington was established by an act of the Virginia General Assembly. The act was received by a board of seven Lexington trustees to receive 710 acres. Ref: 1
August 12-14, War party consisting of Captain Caldwell, Simon Girty, Shawnee and Wyandot warriors of about 300 strong came into Kentucky. Small detachments were sent to several forts but the main body went on to Hoy’s Station. At Hoy’s Station, the war party captured Captain William Hoy’s son and another boy. A militia was assembled to pursue the war party. On the east side of Upper Blue Licks the militia was ambushed, Hoy and the remaining men, retreated from the field leaving their dead and wounded behind. The men were able to return to the fort to await re-enforcements from Lexington. The war party had the fort under attack until night fall, killing 5-6 more settlers. They demanded that the fort surrender, when the fort refused, the war party feasted on the fort’s cattle and vegetables, then they left the fort.
August 15-16, Captain Caldwell and his combined Shawnee and Wyandot force, attempted to surprise Bryant’s Station. They set up a siege of the fort. Despite attempts by the settlers to draw the Natives into all out battle, there was no attempt to storm the fort. The war party fired on the fort, burned the stable, and attempted to stop the re-enforcement of the fort by the men from Lexington. The war party demanded the surrender of the fort, and left after a 24 hour siege when the fort refused.
August 19, 1782, the Battle of Blue Licks was fought near present day Mount Olivet in Robertson County, This important battle embodied the conflict between Kentucky settlers, the American Native Americans and the British Crown. It was one of the last battles of the American Revolutionary War. It was also the last major Native American battles in Kentucky although small skirmishes and raids would continue until 1813. The battle occurred ten months after Lord Cornwallis’s famous surrender at Yorktown, which ended the war in the east. Blue Licks was the last victory for the British and Natives and a disaster for Kentuckians. Seventy-two Kentuckians were killed in that fight; more than a third of their force. One of these was Israel Boone who was shot in the heart. His father Daniel tried to carry his body of the battleground but had to leave it behind to save his own life. The Native Americans and British lost only three men. This defeat marked the lowest point in the America’s push for the West, however, Native Americans and the British would never again attack in this uniformed, large scale offensive.
November 10, 1782, George Rogers Clark sent a Kentucky force to invade the Native American county north of the Ohio. They descended on the town of Miamis where the natives fled without a fight. The native towns were burned and supplies stolen. The news of these actions also help the confidence of white men who wanted to settle new land.
April 19, 1783, Isaac Shelby married Susanna Hart in Fort Boonesborough.
September 2, 1783, Kincheloe Station in Nelson County was attacked by 150 native troops. They killed or captured 37 settlers. After this victory they headed back to Ohio. While the party was camped near Shelbyville they challenged Colonel John Floyd to attack there party. Floyd fearing defeat after having lost to a war party at Long Run Creek, refused to except the challenge.
SEPTEMBER 3, 1783, AMERICAN REVOLUTION ENDS.
February 1, 1785, the first session of the Transylvania Seminary began in the log house of David Rice, a Presbyterian minister in Danville.
October, Kentucky sends an invasion against the tribes north of the Ohio river. The invasion was led by George Rogers Clark. Clark left with 1000 men, 300 of them deserted before they ever reached the Native Americans. At the same time Logan took 50 men against the Shawnee. Clark’s expedition was a failure, but Logan’s burned Shawnee towns, killed warriors and was a great success.
August 11, 1787, brothers John and Fielding Bradford returned to Lexington from Pennsylvania after they learned the newspaper trade, and published the first issue of the Kentucke Gazette. It was Kentucky’s first newspaper and second in the Western Country. No copy of the first edition is known to survive and at the time, Lexington had 350 citizens and 50 residences. The earliest years of the Gazette were meager; barely two small pages of print, but it quickly grew into a four page weekly imparting East Coast and foreign news in addition to the sometimes colorful local announcements. Above all else, though, the Gazette’s primary agenda was the dissemination of opinions regarding state politics and global issues of American frontier concern. Throughout the Gazette’s life it remained true to this principle. As political parties emerged the Gazette became a strong Democratic (Jacksonian) mouthpiece, a stance clearly reflected in its editorials.
December 11, 1787, Maysville was established when it was a part of Bourbon County. Among its first trustees was Daniel and his cousin Jacob Boone. The city’s early growth was slow because pioneers sought safety from Indian raids by settling at Washington on the hill above Maysville, away from the river. The defeat of the Indians at the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794 made the area safe for settlement. With the finest taverns, Maysville was famous for its visitors including Clay and Lafayette.
January 28, 1788, Elijah Craig was credited with the establishment of the first classical school in Kentucky. The school would offer courses in Latin, Greek and “such branches of the sciences as are usually taught in public seminaries.” Ten years later the school was absorbed by the Rittenhouse Academy, which was given by the state some 5,900 acres in Christian and Cumberland counties so that they might sell the land to benefit their endowment fund. The academy, in turn, was absorbed by Georgetown College in 1829.
May, a flat boat loaded with kettles, intended for the manufacture of salt at Bullitt’s Lick, left Louisville with twelve men and one woman. They were taken by surprise by a band of Native Americans and battle ensued. When the battle was over only two of the male settlers survived and the women was taken captive Of the 120 Native Americans in the battle, 30 were killed.
July 17, 1789, Chinoweth’s station was attacked by an number of Indians who entered the Chinweth house, while the family was at supper. Three of the Chinoweth family were killed and seven wounded. Three of the wounded have since died, and the others are in serious condition. The Indians plundered the house of everything they could carry away. Also at this station, before the major attack, one man was killed and one wounded. The county has also seen mor than 20 horses stolen.
Other Kentucky Nativ American attacks: Nelson County: two men killed and two wounded, and more than 20
horses stolen. Lincoln County: one man and one child killed and more than 20 horses stolen. Bourbon County: two men badly wounded and about 15 horses stolen. Mason County: two men killed and 41 horses stolen. Woodford County: One boy killed and several horses stolen.
Native Americans killed three men at Carpenter’s station and broke up a settlement on Russel’s creek. Barnett’s Station now Calhoun was attacked and two children killed. In a letter from Henry James of Danville to Jonathan Brown, James tells of many attacks by Native Americans in Kentucky: two men were killed while hunting, and three men were killed on the Wilderness Road. He also tells of stations being abandoned out of fear from attacks.
May 23, 1790, a company of people were going home from a meeting on Brashier’s Creek, they were fired on by a party of Native Americans. One man was killed and one woman was taken captive. A group was gathered to pursue the Natives, but when they got close the captive was killed and the group dispersed so that they could not be followed.
July, Letter from Harry Innes to Henry Knox- “that all warfare had been due to Indian aggression. In an effort to protect and pressure land rights, an expedition of volunteers into Indian territory will commence. Volunteers will not discriminate who they injure or kill.”
August 1, 1790, the first recorded duel in Kentucky took place, two years before Kentucky became a state. It was fought in Danville between Capt. James Strong and Henry Craig. At sunrise the two lined up facing each other armed with clumsy flintlock pistols of large caliber. According to the Kentucky Gazette, “Captain Strong was mortally wounded; the ball entered his right groin and passed just below his left hip. Mr. Craig was wounded through the right thigh.” The cause of the duel was not given. Ref: 21
August 2, 1790, the first official census for Kentucky began and was mandated by the U.S. to be completed within nine months. The results were: 15,154 free white males of 16 years and older, including heads of families, 17,057 free white males under 16 years, 28,922 free white females, including heads of families, 114 All other free persons, 12,430 Slaves. 73,677 Total number of inhabitants reported.
February 4, 1791, the first U.S. Congress in its 3rd session passed the Kentucky State Act: admitting Kentucky into the Union. The Act set June 1, 1792 as Kentucky’s Statehood Day.
April 2, 1792, knowing that Kentucky was to be admitted to the Union as a state, delegates to the tenth statehood convention met in Danville. They met until April 18th to draft a constitution that included a twenty-six-point bill of rights. There is little or no documentation describing the actual process of adding these sections or identifying their origins. Without question, however, George Nicholas was the predominant drafter of the bill of rights. Nicholas was fully informed on the subject of constitutions and the rights they guaranteed states and individuals. He had come to Kentucky from Virginia in 1788, fresh from the great debate over that state’s ratification of the U.S. Constitution. He was familiar, too, with George Mason’s Virginia Declaration of Rights (1776).
The delegates obviously had copies of the Massachusetts constitution of 1780 and the second Pennsylvania constitution of 1790. Both of these documents contain extensive statements of the rights of citizens; though they use differing phraseology, they express precisely the same guarantees. It seems certain that the framers of the Pennsylvania document were influenced by the earlier Massachusetts document. Delegates to the tenth convention in Danville simply copied the Pennsylvania bill of rights, making only a few minor changes.
More than twenty Native American Tribes, including the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Chippewa, Delaware, Eel River, Haudenosaunee, Kaskaskia, Kickapoo, Miami, Ottawa, Piankeshaw, Potawatomi, Shawnee, Wea, and Wyandot, held legal claims to the land. At that time, Kentucky was also considered home to the Mingo and Yamacraw, and Yuchi.
May 1792, over a several day period a band of Native Americans attacked several homes on the Elkhorn Creek and Upper Blue Licks. They burned several houses, killed at least 10 men, and took several prisoners.
May 15, 1792, Isaac Shelby was elected the first Governor of Kentucky by electors from different regions of the state. Ref: 15
June 1, 1792, the Kentucky State Act admitting Kentucky into the Union took effect. Under the Presidency of George Washington, Kentucky was now the first state west of the Appalachian Mountains and the 15th state in the young Union.
June 4, 1792, was a special day for Kentucky and Lexington. On this day Lexington hosted the 1st Kentucky legislature on the second floor of the Market House on Main Street. Also on this day, Lexington hosted the inauguration of Governor Isaac Shelby, Kentucky’s first governor. The session continued until June 29th. Ref: 12
June 18, 1792, the Kentucky legislature elected their first two senators, John Brown and John Edwards, to the U.S. Senate.
December 5, 1792, a commission, selected by the Kentucky Legislature, chose Frankfort as the state’s capitol. The Commissioners were instructed to choose a site that pledged the largest contribution toward the construction of a state house. Several cities bid but Frankfort’s offer of: several town lots, rent money from a tobacco warehouse, assorted building materials and $3,000 in cash from eight local citizens overwhelmed the others. A three story state house was completed in 1794 and burned to the ground in 1813.
December 18, 1792, the Kentucky General Assembly established an act prescribing the mode of appointing inspectors of tobacco, hemp and flour governed by the laws of Virginia. “That the different ware-houses in the county of Clark, shall be in one inspection and that the ware-houses at Cleveland and Stafford’s landing, shall be one other inspection.”
April 1793, Morgan’s Station- Nineteen white women and children were captured by Native Americans. Settlers went after the group overtaking them. Captives were taken back, but not before some were killed. Also, Morgan’s station- Lieut. William McMulens and twenty six men from Lexington and Fayette County were sent as guards for the iron works on Slate Creek, due to attacks by members of the Wyandotte tribe.
October 21, 1793, the trustees of Lexington issued a statement in the Kentucky Gazette to put a stop to racing thoroughbreds through the streets of Lexington after several close encounters of flying horse shoes hitting spectators.
January 13, 1794, President Washington authorized an act to change the U.S. flag to a 15-star, 15-stripe flag. This act added 2 stripes and 2 stars for the admission of Vermont (the 14th State) and Kentucky (the 15th State). It was the only U.S. Flag to have more than 13 stripes and lasted 23 years. It was immortalized by Francis Scott Key during the bombardment of Fort McHenry on September 13, 1814. The image is representative of the actual flag that flew over Fort McHenry on that day and which is now preserved in the Smithsonian Museum. You can notice the “tilt” in some of the stars just as in the original Star Spangled Banner. The five Presidents who served under this flag were; George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe. Faced with the admission of five more states in 1818, the flag design would return to the original thirteen stripes.
January 28, 1794, James Harrod’s will was recorded. James Harrod died mysteriously during one of his hunting trips in the winter of 1792. His body was never found and because of his prominence in the state, his death intrigued the public. The story captivated the young commonwealth. The only documentation on the disappearance was Mrs. Harrod’s testimony to receive her Revolutionary War Wife’s Pension which she never received. Ann believed he was murdered by “Bridges.” James was an important witness against “Bridges” in a pending lawsuit. James Harrod divided his plantation between his wife and daughter. The daughter’s second inheritance from her half-brother increased her acreage to 2,800 and when Margaret married in 1802 she was one of Central Kentucky’s richest heiresses.
August 20, 1794, the Battle of Fallen Timbers began, this battle was the final battle of the Northwest Indian War. General “Mad Anthony” Wayne’s victory at Fallen Timbers in Ohio ends Indian attacks in Kentucky
November 3, 1794, the 3rd capital building but the first permanent one was occupied by the legislatures for the first time. The Kentucky legislatures had first met in Lexington, then in Frankfort, each time using a temporary home. This new stone structure was 100 square feet, three stories high and covered by a hipped roof, with a central cupola. This building would last 19 years before it was destroyed by fire in November 1813. The next capital building built would also be burned. Kentucky has had 8 different capitol buildings. All have been in Frankfort except the first temporary log cabin used in Lexington.
In 1795 Thomas Cooper wrote that no part of Kentucky could be deemed “perfectly safe” from Native American attacks, except the area around Lexington. Both the Pittsburgh and Wilderness Roads are “liable to ‘perpetual molestations by savages.”
February 17, 1795, J. H. Stewart’s Kentucky Herald, was the second newspaper produced in Kentucky. It was later consolidated into the Kentucky Gazette. Ref: 7
June 7, 1796, James Garrard, a farmer and former Baptist minister, was sworn in as Kentucky’s second governor as a Democratic-Republican Party candidate. The Democratic-Republican Party, states’ rights oriented, was the 2nd political party in the U.S. and formed by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison in opposition to America’s 1st political party, Hamilton’s Federalist Party. Governor Garrard went on to win a second term to be the first two term governor. No other governor was able to achieve this feat until the term-limit restriction was eased by a 1992 amendment, allowing Paul E. Patton’s re-election in 1999.
October 15, 1796, the first written record of the Wilderness Road is an announcement in the Kentucky Gazette: “The Wilderness Road from Cumberland Gap to the settlements in Kentucky is now compleated. Waggons loaded with a ton weight, may pass with ease, with four good horses.” Before that time, most people called the route either Kentucky Road or the road to the Holston settlements, depending upon the direction of travel. On John Filson‘s map, the old trail is called “The Road from the Old settle[ments] thro’ the great Wilderness.”
December 1796, William Clarke of Maryland finally accepted the U.S. Attorney appointment to prosecute Whiskey Rebellion cases in Kentucky. No individual wanted the job and many high profile individuals declined the position. They understood the difficulty of prosecuting local distilleries for not paying taxes. The rebellion began two years earlier in PA.
Lexington’s census, as reported by the town trustees, consisted of; Males above 12: 462, Females: 307, Whites under 12: 346, Negros: 360. Ref: 1
April 25, 1798, Henry Clay had attacked the institution of slavery in a piece he wrote for the Kentucky Gazette under the pseudonym of Scaevola. Ref: 26
December 22, 1798, the Kentucky legislature passed an act merging rival Presbyterian institutions of learning. The Kentucky Academy in Woodford County and Transylvania Seminary of Lexington merged and became Transylvania University.
December 22, 1798, Shelbyville Academy was chartered by the Kentucky General Assembly with a grant of 6,000 acres of land south of the Green River. In 1836 the name changed to Shelby College and in 1841 the Protestant Episcopal Church took control when the campus consisted of 18 acres, a brick building and the president’s home. In the late 1840s and 1850s the college expanded their curriculum for surveyors, civil engineers, astronomers, pharmacists and physicians. The school’s main classroom building included an astronomical observatory built by Kentuckian Gideon Shryock. Disputes over the use of a lottery to provide funding hurt the college, and it closed in 1868. The building was razed in 1939 after it was used as a school for boys and then an elementary school. Picture
December 25, 1798, after a number of known atrocities, the Harpe Brothers were first arrested in the state of Kentucky. It was for the murder of a man named Langford who had befriended them at a public house near Rockcastle River and was foolish enough to show off his silver coin too many times. Jailed in Danville, they managed to escape. When a posse was sent after them, the young son of a man who assisted the authorities was found dead and mutilated in retaliation by the Harpes. Four months later Governor James Garrard placed a three-hundred dollar reward on each of the Harpes’ heads. The Harpe brothers were the first known recorded serial killers.
April 11, 1799, Henry Clay (22) married Lucretia Hart (18) in Lexington at 193 North Mill Street, Lucretia’s father’s house. They had 11 children, 5 sons and 6 daughters, 7 of whom reached adulthood. Lucretia tolerated her husband’s periodic gambling and drinking bouts. In fact, she was once asked if she minded her husband’s habitual gambling. “Doesn’t it distress you,” sniffed a Boston matron, “to have Mr. Clay gamble?” Lucretia looked surprised at the question. “Oh! dear, no” she replied very innocently, “he most always wins.” Ref: 1
August 24, 1799, in Henderson, Micajah “Big” Harpe’s head was sawed off and stuck on a pole. Big and Little Harpe became America’s first serial killers. When the killing spree came to Kentucky, where over 10 individuals were murdered, a posse finally tracked the pair down, right before they were planning to kill yet another man. Big Harpe was shot off his horse, while Little Harpe fled. Moses Stegall, whose family was murdered in Kentucky, got his revenge – by slowly sawing off Big Harpe’s head. Before dying, Harpe confessed to at least 20 murders. As a warning, Big Harpe’s head was stuck onto a pole at an intersection in Henderson, later called Harpe’s Head. The brothers’ brutal deeds left a permanent stain on the American frontier.
November 21, 1799, John James Dufour of Vevey, Switzerland, had the first commercial vineyard and winery in the U.S., known as the “First Vineyard.” Dufour traveled up and down the Ohio, Mississippi and Kentucky rivers and selected Jessamine Coounty, because there was a shipping port across from the Kentucky River, where he could ship to New Orleans and beyond. The first wine from that vineyard was consumed on March 21, 1803. The winery has collected many interesting historical facts, such as a letter in 1805 from Thomas Jefferson who thanked Dufour for the wines. Shown is a certificate of a share in the “First Vineyard” of Dufour’s Kentucky Vineyard Society.