Kentucky History Timeline

Important Dates, Events, and Milestones in Kentucky History

Offers a chronological timeline of important dates, events, and milestones in Kentucky history.

Kentucky's first inhabitants are descendants of prehistoric people who migrate from Asia over the Arctic land bridge. Archaic people grow squash in the area, and Woodland people cultivate corn and beans. Kentucky was granted statehood in 1792, becoming the first U.S. state west of the Appalachian Mountains.

Frontiersman Daniel Boone was one of Kentucky's most prominent explorers and many immigrants followed the trail he blazed through the Cumberland Gap, known as the Wilderness Road.

18th Century Kentucky History Timeline

1739 - Capt. Charles de Longueuil discovers Big Bone Lick

1750 - Thomas Walker explores Kentucky through the Cumberland Gap

1751 - Christopher Gist explores area along Ohio River.

1763 - France cedes area including Kentucky to Britain.

1769 - Daniel Boone and John Finley first saw the far distant Bluegrass atop Pilot Knob, now in Powell County. The recorded date is June 7, 1769.

1774 - James Harrod constructed the first permanent settlement in Kentucky at Fort Harrod. 1774. James Harrod starts building Harrodstown (Harrodsburg); Indians force settlers to withdraw; settlers return in 1775.

1775 -

  • Boiling Springs and St. Asaph settled.
  • Indians give Richard Henderson land between Ohio and Cumberland rivers for Transylvania Land Company.
  • Daniel Boone builds the Wilderness Trail and establishes Fort Boonesborough

1776 - Harrodsburg settlers, jealous of Boonesboro, send George Rogers Clark and John Jones to ask Virginia's aid; Virginia declares Transylvania Land Company illegal; creates Kentucky County.

1778 - The longest siege in United States frontier history was the thirteen-day siege of Fort Boonesborough in September 1778.

1779 - The First Baptist Church west of the Allegheny Mountains was formed at Elizabethtown.

1782 - "Last battle of American Revolution" fought at Blue Licks, near Mount Olivet.

1784 - First of ten conventions held to prepare way for separation of Kentucky from Virginia.

1791 - Upper Spottsvania Baptist Church Left In 1791 For Floyd County, Kentucky From Virginia Leading the Wagon train was Rev. Lewis Craig and Capt. William Ellis.

1792 - Kentucky becomes the 15th state on June 1, 1792. June 1; governor, Isaac Shelby; capital, Lexington, then Frankfort.

1794 -

  • Gen. "Mad Anthony" Wayne's victory at Fallen Timbers in Ohio ends Indian attacks in Kentucky.
  • On July 4, 1794, Col. William Price, Revolutionary War veteran, held the first Independence Day celebration in the West, in Jessamine County.

1796 - Wilderness Road opened to wagons.

1798 - Legislature passes Kentucky Resolutions opposing United States Alien and Sedition Acts.

19th Century Kentucky History Timeline

1801 - The great church camp meeting at Cane Ridge in Bourbon County was attended by more than 20,000.

1811 - Henry Clay elected to Congress from Kentucky. New Orleans, first steamboat on Ohio River, stops at Louisville; Enterprise reaches Louisville from New Orleans, La., in 1815.

1812 - Kentuckians bear brunt of war with England north of the Ohio and in New Orleans.

1818 - Westernmost region of the state was annexed, following its purchase from the Chicasaw Indians.

1819 - The first commercial oil well was on the Cumberland River in McCreary County Kentucky in 1819.

1830 - Louisville and Portland Canal opened.

1849 - Zachary Taylor, Kentucky hero of Mexican War, becomes 12th president of United States.

1850 - Kentucky was the 8th most populated state in the nation in the 1850 census. There were 982,405 citizens listed.

1861 -

  • Kentucky declares its neutrality in American Civil War.
  • Civil War Kentucky had supplied about 86,000 troops to the north and 40,000 troops to the south. Ironically, south-central Kentucky was the birthplace of both the Union president, Abraham Lincoln, and the Confederate president, Jefferson Davis, further enhancing the state's dualistic role in the Civil War
  • Fort Jefferson, the first settlement in western Kentucky, was one of the first Kentucky positions occupied by Union Troops after the Confederates seized the area surrounding Columbus in September 1861.

1862 -

  • The first major battle on Kentucky soil during the Civil War was fought near Prestonsburg, January 10, 1862
  • The bloodiest Civil War Battle to be fought on Kentucky soil was the Battle of Perryville, Oct. 8, 1862.

1865 - University of Kentucky founded at Lexington.

1875 - First Kentucky Derby run at Churchill Downs.

1891 - Present state constitution adopted.

1892 - The radio was invented by a Kentuckian named Nathan B. Stubblefield of Murray in 1892.

20th Century Kentucky History Timeline

1899-1900 - Kentucky experienced four different governors in less than three months time, between early December of 1899 and early February of 1900.

1900 - Governor William Goebel was shot by an assassin on January 30, 1900. He died on February 3, 1900

1909 - Present State Capitol completed.

1912 - McCreary County, the last to be created of Kentucky's 120 counties, was formed in 1912. It is the only one formed in the 20th Century.

1904-1909 - The Black Patch War ends a tobacco-buying monopoly

1921 - In 1921 the law passed making it legal for women to serve on juries.

1926 -

  • Mammoth Cave National Park established.
  • The cardinal was adopted as Kentucky's state bird and the goldenrod as the state flower in 1926

1933 - The Tennessee Valley Authority begin building dams in Kentucky

1936 -

  • The last legal public hanging in Kentucky took place August 14, 1936 in Owensboro. Florence Thompson was the first female sheriff in Davis County History. She was in charge of Kentucky's last legal hanging.
  • A US Gold Depository is established at Fort Knox

1937 - Worst Ohio River flood occurs. United States gold depository built at Fort Knox.

1944 - Kentucky Dam on Tennessee River completed by Tennessee Valley Authority.

1946 - Frederick M. Vinson, born in 1890 in Louisa, is appointed chief justice of the United States.

1950 - Atomic energy plant built near Paducah.

1951 - Wolf Creek Dam on Cumberland River dedicated.

1959 - Cumberland Gap National Historical Park dedicated.

1961 - It takes 20,000 plants to decorate Kentucky's Floral Clock. The clock was dedicated May 4, 1961 by Governor Bert T. Combs.

1962 - Kentucky is first state given control of certain nuclear energy materials by federal government.

1964 - Western Kentucky Parkway opened; Kentucky Central Parkway, in 1965.

1966 -

  • Kentucky is first Southern state to pass a comprehensive civil rights law.
  • Barkley Dam on Cumberland River dedicated.

1969 - The Tennessee Valley Authority builds a steam-generating plant in Paradise

1977 - Nightclub fire in Southgate kills 164 persons.

1988 - Voters approve the establishment of a state lottery.

1990 - The Kentucky Education Reform Act is passed.

21st Century Kentucky History Timeline

2005 - U.S. Supreme Court ruled against display of Ten Commandments inside two Kentucky courtrooms

2006 - Comair flight crashed near Lexington, 49 killed

2010 -

  • Tea Party candidate, Rand Paul, won Republic Senate primary
  • Man killed five people, self in argument about breakfast
  • Five U.S. military members from Fort Campbell 101st Combat Aviation Brigade killed in helicopter crash in Afghanistan

2011 - Australian man held in Louisville on charges of locking fake bomb around neck of Sydney teenager

2012 - Series of powerful storms and tornadoes killed 12

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