Kentucky History Front and Center

Photo by Jim Bowen

Step back in time in Kentucky with rich stories

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Explore Kentucky history.  Kentucky is the 15th state to join the United States, joining the party in 1792.  Although at the time there was quite a bit of history being made over to our east, and there was a lot of history to be made to the west, Kentucky has some stories to tell.  And the good news is, when Kentucky was at the center of the action, our ancestors were pretty good at recording and preserving it, so we can all see how it looked.

Prehistoric Kentucky to Pioneer Days

Going back before we got here, we, being humans, Kentucky has a state park dedicated to our pre-historic animals. Yes, Big Bone Lick in Northern Kentucky was a salt like where these guys would come to snack, and then, sadly, die. So it became a graveyard for Wooley mammoths and their friends.

As if we could time-travel, we could speed up to the pioneer days, when travelers headed west and ended up in what is now Kentucky.  There are two replica forts that represent show how these brave men and women built log cabins and then surrounded them with log walls for protection from Native Americans. At both Fort Boonesboro and Old Fort Harrod State Parks (they are about 50 miles apart) you can see how it looked and, usually on weekends, they have actors on the site to tell you how it was to live there.

Kentucky Historic Homes and Civil War

Although most people associate the Revolutionary War with the northeast, there was actually one battle recorded in Kentucky. The Bluelicks Battlefield and State Park does a fantastic job telling that story. There are several historic homes, magnificent at the time and still gorgeous today, which have been preserved and are open to the public.  My Old Kentucky Home in Bardstown, White Hall in Richmond, Waveland in Lexington and Ashland: The Home of Henry Clay, in Lexington. Each offers tour of the home and surrounding grounds and each has a fascinating story to tell.

Not long after Kentucky was established, a young man with a big future was born in a humble cabin in central Kentucky. You can visit Abraham Lincoln’s Birthplace, and just down the road, Abraham Lincoln’s Boyhood Home and see where it all started.  Around that same time, a girl named Mary Todd was born in Lexington. You can tour her home too, as she grew up to become Mrs. Abraham Lincoln and her opulent girlhood home, Mary Todd Lincoln House, is very different from how her husband grew up. While in Lexington, you can get a front row seat to their history, with a stop at the grand old courthouse which is now the city’s History Museum.

During the Civil War, Kentucky remained neutral, but there were still battles and skirmishes within her borders. The largest battle in the state occurred in early October, 1862 at the Battle of Perryville.  The site has a museum, memorial and conducts re-enactments on the actual field where it all happened.  Not too far from there is a fascinating, as well as beautiful place where the Society of Believer’s lived for more than 100 years. This religious sect, formed Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill and today visitors can tour the grounds and learn about these resourceful people.

A fantastic way to sum up Kentucky’s amazing history is with a visit to the Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History in Frankfort.  And as long as you are in town, take a self-guided tour of our beautiful domed State Capitol building.


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