World History

Kentucky State History – Economy, People, Facts

The land that is now Kentucky has been inhabited by various peoples for thousands of years. One of the earliest cultures to develop here were forest peoples, such as the Hopewell and Adena peoples. Later, the Mississippians and Fort Ancients lived in the area.

Information about Kentucky State:

Capital Frankfort
Population 4,512,310 (Source: 2022 U.S. Census)
Major Cities Louisville, Lexington, Bowling Green, Owensboro, Covington
Borders Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Tennessee, West Virginia, Virginia
Gross Domestic Product (GDP) $260,304.1 million (2022 U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis)
Key Industries Agriculture including corn, tobacco, grains, cattle, and chickens
Coal mining, automobiles, horse breeding, energy production, and appliances

Flag of Kentucky State:

Native Americans

When Europeans arrived in the 16th century, there were no major Native American tribes permanent residents of Kentucky. Kentucky was primarily used as a hunting ground for tribes such as the Cherokee, Delaware, and Shawnee.

Europeans Arrive

English settlers looked west for new lands, but few set foot in Kentucky because of the difficulty of crossing the Appalachian Mountains. In 1750, explorer Dr. Thomas Walker passes through the mountains. He called it the Cumberland Gap.

Kentucky State Symbols

  • Kentucky State Nickname: Bluegrass State
  • Kentucky State Slogan: Unbridled Spirit; also on its license plate; (formerly) It’s That Friendly; (formerly) Where Education Pays
  • Kentucky State Motto: United we stand, divided we fall
  • Kentucky State flower: Goldenrod
  • Kentucky State bird: Kentucky Cardinal
  • Kentucky State fish: Kentucky bass
  • Kentucky State tree: Tulip Poplar
  • Kentucky State mammal: Thoroughbred horse, Gray squirrel
  • Kentucky State foods: Blackberry, Milk


After the French and Indian War ended in 1763, the British promised the Indians not to settle beyond the Appalachian Mountains. However, the settlers did not agree to this promise and began to settle Kentucky anyway. The first European settlement was Harrodsburg, founded by James Harrod in 1774. Soon more settlers began to settle in the area.

Dunmore’s War

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

The Geography of Kentucky State:

  • Total Size of Kentucky: 39,728 sq. miles (source: 2003 Census)
  • Geographical Low Point of Kentucky: Mississippi River at 257 feet, located in the county/subdivision of Fulton (source: U.S. Geological Survey)
  • Geographical High Point of Kentucky: Black Mtn. at 4,145 feet, located in the county/subdivision of Harlan (source: U.S. Geological Survey)
  • Central Point of Kentucky: Located in Marion County approx. 3 miles north-northwest of Lebanon (source: U.S. Geological Survey)
  • Counties of Kentucky: 120 (source: National Association of Counties)
  • Bodies of Water of Kentucky: Ohio River, Mississippi River, Kentucky River, Tennessee River, Lake Cumberland, Kentucky Lake, Barkley Lake

Daniel Boone

In 1775, Daniel Boone led many settlers to Kentucky and founded the town of Boonesboro. He also widened and improved the road across the Cumberland Ditch to allow wagons to pass. This road became known as the Wilderness Road. Many settlers then took this route and settled in Kentucky.

Becoming a State

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

Civil War

During the Civil War, Kentucky was both a frontier state and a slave state. Some people in the state supported the North, others supported the South. Early in the war, Kentucky remained neutral, refusing to take sides. However, when the Confederates invaded, Kentucky declared allegiance to the Union. Major battles in Kentucky include the Battle of Mill Springs and the Battle of Perryville. Interestingly, Union leader Abraham Lincoln and Confederate leader Jefferson Davis were both born in Kentucky.

Famous People of Kentucky State:

Diane Sawyer News anchor
Rajon Rondo Professional basketball player
Loretta Lynn Country singer and songwriter
Abraham Lincoln The 16th President of the United States
Jennifer Lawrence Actor
Johnny Depp Actor
Jefferson Davis Leader of the Confederacy during the Civil War
George Clooney Actor
Kit Carson Explorer and frontiersman
Muhammad Ali Heavyweight champion boxer

Interesting Facts of Kentucky State:

The Kentucky Derby is one of the most famous horse races in the world.

The U.S. Depository (where gold is stored) is located in Fort Knox, Kentucky.

Kentucky Fried Chicken is located in Louisville, Kentucky.

Mammoth Cave in Kentucky is the longest recorded cave system in the world.

Daniel Boone was one of the first settlers to explore and settle Kentucky. Kentucky is one of three states that claim to have invented the cheeseburger, including Colorado and California.

Most of the world’s gold is stored at Fort Knox.

The song “Happy Birthday to You” was written by two sisters who live in Louisville.

Famous Baseball Bat, Louisville His Slugger is made in Louisville, Kentucky.

President Abraham Lincoln was born in Kentucky. Confederate President Jefferson Davis was also born here.

Timeline Overview:

1750 – Cumberland Gap is founded by Dr. Thomas Walker.
1774 – Harrodsburg is established as Britain’s first permanent settlement.
1774 – Lord Dunmore of Virginia defeats the Shawnee in the Dunmore War.
1775 – Daniel Boone incorporates the town of Boonesboro and extends the Wilderness Trail from Virginia.
1780 – The city of Louisville is established.
1792 – Kentucky becomes the 15th state.
1861 – After trying to remain neutral, Kentucky decides to side with the Union in the Civil War.
1875 – The first Kentucky Derby is held at Churchill Downs.
1904-08 – The Black Patch Tobacco Wars take place in Kentucky.
1937 – Great damage caused by flooding of the Ohio River. 1964 – Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) wins his first heavyweight championship match.