History of Kentucky

Some archaeological remains dating back to 15,000 years ago, suggest that this region was inhabited by men already at that time. Cherokee, Delaware, Iroquois and Shawnee were the Indian tribes, which the first Europeans found in this territory. During the seventeenth century the British and the French entered the territory that today forms the state of Kentucky, among these first explorers were Gabriel Arthur, John P. Salling, Jacques Marquette and La Salle. In 1750, Thomas Walker and Christopher Gist explored the region. Between 1767 and 1769 the region was explored by Daniel Boone, who also returned in 1773 with a group of settlers who settled in the central plain. Given the opposition of the Indians, this first group could not settle permanently. A year later, however, settlers from Pennsylvania managed to found the first settlement in the region, Harrodsburg. The territory of Kentucky, after the independence of the United States in 1776, was administered by Virginia.  During the war between England and its American colonies, the Cherokee Indians allied themselves with England and relentlessly attacked the settlers who occupied their territories. Daniel Boon, Simón Kenton and George Rogers Clark, organized campaigns against the Indian tribes, and later managed to defeat them.

With Independence, thousands of new settlers continued to arrive, as Kentucky was the gateway to the vast lands of the Mississippi Valley. The rapid colonization of this region led Kentucky to solicit separation from Virginia in 1792 and its admission as a state of the Union.

During the 19th century, Kentucky specialized in providing food (meat, flour, and salt) for southern plantations, primary products that were transported quickly across the Mississippi River. In addition to this, Kentucky became a center for the breeding of horses and mules, thanks to the remarkable quality of its pastures. Other products, such as tobacco and bourbon, (a type of whiskey named after the Bourbon county where it originated), were important sources of income during this century.

During the years before the Civil War (1861-1865) the issue of slavery was discussed in Kentucky. Henry Clay and Cassius Marcellus Clay struggled to end this system, which nevertheless was the economic basis of many of the farms in the central region of the state. The fact that two of the prominent figures of this period were born in Kentucky (President Abraham Lincoln and Confederate General Jefferson Davis) explains the great divide between the state’s population during the war. In 1861, Confederacy troops occupied western Kentucky, and Union troops, led by Ulyses Grant, entered the state to fight them.

Starting in 1890, the arrival of the railway in the region allowed the rapid colonization and exploitation of its natural resources: coal, oil and wood. The 1929 crisis hit the state economy enormously, given its dependence on the primary sector, despite federal programs attempting to mitigate the effects of the economic depression. Among the federal projects, as part of the measures of the New Deal of President Roosevelt, there was the creation of the Tennessee Valley Authority, which allowed the construction of public works, (roads and dams) that allowed strong economic growth in the following years.

Kentucky: what to see

If bourbon and horses are the basis of the Kentueky’s reputation, its inhabitants seem above all proud of the fact that the most prestigious President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, lived in what is now regarded as a historic location: the city of Hodgenville. They could equally boast of the numerous distractions the Kentueky offers and the natural treasures contained within its territory. In first place among the latter can be placed the spectacular Mammoth Cave National Park. The very famous Mammoth cave is so colossal in size that its exact extent is not yet known. In the 240 km of known tunnels, of which 160 have already been explored. Halfway between Louisville and Nashville, this park offers guided tours of one of the largest cave systems in the world, formed by underground rivers that have left a spectacular scenery based on stalactites and stalagmites. Guests are free to choose the “historic” tour or the “Wild Cave Tour” (with helmets). According to experts, the caves were inhabited 4000 years ago. The Green River flows above Mammoth Cave, in an area that is crossed by numerous hiking trails, but the most moving Kentueky, because it is more authentic, remains the one that remains attached with all its strength to traditions and historical memories. The log cabins of Renfro Valley, Duncan’s tavern in Paris, which evoke the time of Daniel Boone, and many other memories of the past are not so far from the lives of its current inhabitants: like President Lincoln, they remain gods. rough mountain people, get used to a severe life, very close to nature. However, that simple existence does not tend towards melancholy, on the contrary: in Berea, in the mountains, when the festival that marks the beginning of university courses opens, singers, dancers and violinists have fun happily. In fact, in the old “Kaintuck”, everything ends in music and songs: the amusing operetta shows staged in Bardstown in the open-air theater of the My Olà Kentucky Home park (from the name of the famous opera by Stephen Foster composed here and become the anthem of State) testify to the cheerfulness of the inhabitants.

Louisville hosts one of the most famous horse races in the world, the Kentucky Derby. The nearby Kentucky Derby Museum illustrates the history of horse racing and offers tours of the Churchill Downs racecourse. Art Museum offers a large collection of Renaissance paintings and sculptures. At the Riverfront Plaza on the banks of the Ohio River, there are many paddle boats offering tours of the area and a fountain that sprays water into the air up to 115m. The old warehouses of the surrounding historic district have been transformed into cafes, galleries and shops.

Lexington is also the capital of the area where horses are raised. In the surrounding countryside, covered in bluegrass, there are hundreds of thoroughbred farms, where many Kentucky Derby winners are conceived, bred and trained. Most of the farms are open to visitors. About 10km north of the city is the Kentucky Horse Park, which has become an equestrian theme park. In the park, the International Museum of the Horse is a monument to the horse’s dock in the development of human history. The adjacent American Saddlebred Museum is named after the first registered horse breed in America, to which it is dedicated.

Tourist and cultural places– The main cultural institutions of the state are the following: the Audubon Museum in Henderson, the JB Speed ​​Museum of Art, in Louisville; the Kentucky Historical Collection in Frankfort; and the Museum of Natural History and Sciences. There are also less traditional but curious museums, such as the Kentucky Derby Museum, dedicated to horse racing, the Barton Museum of Whiskey, or the Patton Museum of Cavalry and Armor.

About 50 miles south of Louisville is the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln. Another attraction in the state is Cumberland Gap National Historic Park, straddling the borders of Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia; this place was an important migration route to the west.

Curiosity– Lake Kentucky in the west of the state is a popular gathering place for outdoor activities. The Kentucky Derby, a thoroughbred horse race held in Louisville every year since 1875, is an event of great social and sporting importance.

Kentucky State Flag

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