More about Kentucky History

Regardless who the first European person to see Kentucky actually was, the first meaningful exploration of the land was between 1673 and 1674.  Gabriel Arthur, on a mapping expedition commissioned by Virginia, crossed the Kentucky River accompanied by a friendly tribe of Indians known as the Tomahittan. During that trip, the Tomahittan tribe attacked the Shawnees, and as a result, Arthur was captured and wounded. He was eventually freed and returned to Virginia with the first available detailed information about Kentucky. His information sparked the interests of many fur traders interested in trading with the Indians. 

In the years that followed, interest in the area was mainly based on trade, furs and such. Exploration continued into the 1700s with John Howard and Christopher Gist.  As usual for the time, both the French and the British claimed the land and the disputes were finally settled after the French and Indian War, with France declining further control.  British rule was relinquished a year or so later at the end of the American Revolution.

Originally part of Virginia, Kentucky was made into its own semi sovereign county. Once singular control over Kentucky was established, settlement began to boom.  Early settlement and exploration had produced maps and land surveys that were later used to sell the land.  Unfortunately, there were conflicting surveys and the same tract was sold multiple times- it took the newly formed courts years to settle the cases, and usually the little guy lost out making the landscape of Kentucky resemble even more that of Virginia with it’s large sprawling plantations.

Kentucky’s early economy was mainly based on farming, though the city centers specialized more in commerce, and other towns had some manufacturing. Important crops included hemp, a plant grown for its tough and strong fibers, which could be made into rope and bagging for cotton bales. Whisky became a Kentucky specialty when it was discovered as a simpler, cheaper way to transport grains. Soon, Kentucky distillers developed Bourbon which became a famous product around the world.  Kentucky Bourbon is still an important product today.  Other early industries that benefited Kentucky were tobacco farming and horse breeding.

Today Kentucky’s economy is a mix of agriculture, industry and manufacturing.  Agricultural outputs include horses, cattle, tobacco, dairy, hogs, soybeans and corn.   Kentucky ranks 5th nationally in goat farming, 8th in beef and 14th in corn production.  Other industries important to the economy of Kentucky include transportation equipment, chemical products, electrical equipment, machinery, food processing, tobacco products, coal and tourism as well as automobile assembly.  Makers represented here include Toyota, Ford, Cadillac and Chevrolet.