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A New History of Kentucky

A New History of Kentucky

Lowell H. Harrison
James C. Klotter
Copyright Date: 1997
Pages: 552
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  • Book Info
    A New History of Kentucky
    Book Description:

    " The first comprehensive history of the state since the publication of Thomas D. Clark's landmark History of Kentucky over sixty years ago. A New History of Kentucky brings the Commonwealth to life, from Pikeville to the Purchase, from Covington to Corbin, this account reveals Kentucky's many faces and deep traditions. Lowell Harrison, professor emeritus of history at Western Kentucky University, is the author of many books, including George Rogers Clark and the War in the West, The Civil War in Kentucky, Kentucky's Road to Statehood, Lincoln of Kentucky, and Kentucky's Governors.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-2621-0
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-v)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vi-x)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. xi-xiii)
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Preface
    (pp. xv-2)
  6. Part I. Kentucky before 1820

    • 1 A Place Called Kentucke
      (pp. 5-14)

      “What a buzzel is amongst people about Kentucke?” inquired a minister in 1775. “To hear people speak of it one would think that it was a new found paradise.” When words failed Lewis Craig as he tried to describe the beauty of heaven during a sermon, he exclaimed that “it is a mere Kentucky of a place.” Despite the dangers of the trip to Kentucky and the uncertainty of life once there, men, women, and children poured westward to populate the virgin land. A gentleman making a leisurely overland trip in 1792 reported passing 221 Kentucky-bound zealots in a day’s...

    • 2 Exploring the Western Waters
      (pp. 15-23)

      No one can name with certainty the first man of European descent who explored in Kentucky. He may have been one of the anonymous, far-ranging Frenchcoureurs du bois,or one of the Jesuit priests who ventured into so many remote areas of the West. The explorations of such intrepid Frenchmen as Jacques Marquette, Louis Joliet, and René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, gave France a claim to much of the Ohio and Mississippi River Valleys and alerted the French government to the strategic importance of the great waterways. In 1749 Pierre-Joseph Céloron de Bienville led a sizable expedition to...

    • 3 Settling a New Land
      (pp. 24-32)

      The first permanent settlements in Kentucky date from 1775, but they represented only the faint beginnings of a massive flow of population that would make statehood possible as early as 1792. Much of the activity in Kentucky in 1775 still centered around surveyors who were preparing the way for settlers and, accompanying settlement, the endless lawsuits over land that continued well into the nineteenth century. The continued scramble for good claims involved both individuals and companies. Unlike the system common in New England, where land was surveyed and boundaries were established before settlers were allowed to occupy it, the Virginia...

    • 4 The Years of the American Revolution
      (pp. 33-47)

      Fighting a war and trying to establish a nation absorbed the attention of seaboard patriots during the American Revolution. Little attention and less help could be devoted to the pioneers who had settled on the Western Waters. Even after Virginia extended its jurisdiction to the Kentucky settlements, its assistance to their residents was limited and sporadic. The war in the West was fought on a minute scale, but it was fought for survival. Historian Stephen Aron has calculated that an inhabitant of Kentucky was seven times as likely to be killed as were the eastern Americans. The West had no...

    • 5 The Road to Statehood
      (pp. 48-64)

      Despite the dangers from Indians that at times threatened to eliminate the early Kentucky settlements, the population of settlers increased substantially during the years of the American Revolution. In the late spring of 1775 the total number of settlers was probably no more than 150, including two women at Boonesborough. The first real surge of settlers came after Clark’s campaign of 1778–79 seemed to promise greater security for the Kentucky stations. So many persons left the Fort Pitt vicinity for Kentucky that an officer stationed there feared that the area would be depopulated. In the spring of 1780 John...

    • 6 From Constitution to Constitution, 1792-1799
      (pp. 65-79)

      “And politics—the damnedest / In Kentucky”: Kentucky has not earned this reputation by favoring nonpartisan elections.¹ The 1792 elections held to implement the new constitution may have been the most nonpartisan ones in the state’s history. Without organized political parties and with many possible candidates reluctant to accept office, the election was lowkey, with little of the partisanship that later became synonymous with Kentucky politics.

      Little time remained between April 19, 1792, when the tenth statehood convention adjourned, and June 1, when statehood became official. Voters elected electors, representatives, sheriffs, and coroners at their county courthouses on May 1....

    • 7 Kentucky in the New Nation, 1792-1815
      (pp. 80-95)

      The move toward constitutional revision was delayed briefly by a national issue on which most Kentuckians were agreed. As party war-fare intensified on the national scene, the Federalists found themselves under severe attack by the Democratic Republicans, despite their success in electing John Adams to succeed George Washington as president. The election of Thomas Jefferson, leader of the Democratic Republicans, as vice president said something about the confused political situation.

      A surge of anti-French sentiment developed after the XYZ Affair, in which French representatives demanded bribes before Americans could begin negotiations for a bilateral treaty, and an undeclared naval war...

    • 8 Kentucky after Fifty Years of Settlement
      (pp. 96-106)

      The War of 1812 has often been called the Second War of American Independence. At home and abroad, there had been doubt that the young republic would survive. By 1815 little doubt remained. The United States was a vigorous nation, steadily increasing in strength, that had fought the foremost power in Europe to a draw. The Federalists had committed political suicide through the Hartford Convention. The party planned to take advantage of the war to present an ultimatum to the national government for terms that would allow it to block many of the actions of the majority party. The implication...

  7. Part II. Kentucky, 1820-1865

    • 9 Politics and Politicians, 1820-1859
      (pp. 109-124)

      By 1820 Kentucky was essentially a one-party state, since the Federalists had almost disappeared, but during the next few years the commonwealth came close to civil war as the result of some of the most vicious politicking that Kentucky has ever endured. As the panic of 1819 worsened, many Kentuckians found themselves hopelessly in debt. Demands for help crescendoed. The critical court struggle—also called the Old Court-New Court Controversy—was fought between people who wanted relief for debtors and continuation of the cheap-money Bank of the Commonwealth and the proponents of sound banking and the sanctity of contracts as...

    • 10 Economic Development
      (pp. 125-145)

      Adequate transportation is perhaps the most important single factor in the economic development of an area. Other factors mean little unless materials and people can be brought together where needed for production and then products can be distributed to those who require them. In long-settled areas, adequate transportation facilities are built over an extended period. Isolated Kentucky grew so rapidly from its first days of settlement that its transportation needs were magnified. In the pre-Civil War years the cry for “internal improvements” was almost incessant.

      When the early explorers reached Kentucky, they found a few Indian trails, notably the Warriors’...

    • 11 Social and Cultural Changes
      (pp. 146-166)

      In “Captain Stormfield’s Visit to Heaven” Mark Twain described a heaven whose inhabitants are judged by their potential, not by what they accomplished on earth. For example, the ranking military commander is a little bricklayer from back of Boston who had been rejected when he volunteered during the American Revolution, but had he been given the opportunity he would have been the earth’s greatest military genius.

      It would be interesting to see how Kentucky women from the pre-Civil War era would fare in Captain Stormfield’s heaven, for they certainly did not have an opportunity to realize their potentials. The professions...

    • 12 Slavery and Antislavery
      (pp. 167-180)

      Slavery existed in Virginia from the early years of the colony, and Kentucky inherited the institution without much dissent. Blacks helped explore Kentucky, and they shared the hardships and dangers of the white pioneers without having the prospects for advancement that the whites believed Kentucky offered. A census taken at Fort Harrod in the spring of 1777 counted 19 slaves, 7 of them children under ten years of age, in a total population of 198. Monk Estill gained his freedom as a reward for his heroic actions at the battle of Little Mountain in 1782, but the number of free...

    • 13 The Road to War
      (pp. 181-194)

      When the Civil War began in April 1861, Kentuckians were badly at odds concerning the issues that had brought the nation to open warfare. The commonwealth was truly a border state. Kentuckians were so divided that the state’s decision to declare neutrality may have made sense as a temporary measure to gain time. It should have been obvious that the policy could not be permanent.

      Ties with the South were strong. Kentucky had been part of the Old Dominion, and many state families still cherished their Virginia associations. Others had come from North Carolina and Tennessee and had connections there....

    • 14 The Civil War
      (pp. 195-212)

      Civil War statistics are often inaccurate, and there is no exact count of Kentuckians who participated in the most costly of American wars when measured in number of deaths. The best estimates are that between twenty-five thousand and forty thousand Kentuckians fought for the confederacy, between ninety thousand and one hundred thousand for the Union. The Confederates were all volunteers, for while the Confederacy started the draft a year before the Union did, the measure could not be applied in Kentucky because of Federal occupation. Many of the Union soldiers were also volunteers, but the draft forced a number into...

  8. Part III. Kentucky after 1865

    • 15 1865 and After
      (pp. 215-233)

      One Kentuckian remembered the day vividly: “When we heard of Gen. Lee’s surrender pandemonium broke loose and everyone acted as if the world was coming to an end.” For people in the state in 1865, one world was in fact ending, and a new, uncertain world built on the wreckage of war was replacing it. But what kind of new world would it be? Would it replicate the old in most fundamental respects, or would it be vastly different? Change, confusion, and chaos often follow war, but this conflict, this civil war, was more destructive and disruptive than any experienced...

    • 16 Reconstruction, Readjustment, and Race, 1865-1875
      (pp. 234-248)

      Despite much continuity in the postwar lives of Kentuckians, some major changes occurred immediately, chiefly in the areas of race relations and politics. The ending of slavery destroyed many of the old racial rules, and new relationships had to be developed. In the defeated South these new relations would be forged under the aegis of federal Reconstruction. But Kentucky had officially been a loyal, Union state and did not fall under those controls. Many of the same problems and concerns existed in the commonwealth as in the states of the former Confederacy, but solutions resulted from a different...

    • 17 Decades of Discord, 1875-1900
      (pp. 249-271)

      Politically and socially, the first fifteen years of the last quarter of the nineteenth century were relatively static, save for a scandal here and there. But the last decade of the era proved to be one of the most turbulent in the state’s history. Throughout the period from 1875 to 1900, Kentucky unfortunately developed a reputation as one of the most violent places in the United States. Feuds grew almost commonplace, and an Appalachian stereotype entered the American consciousness.

      Despite the decades of discord, the state’s political order displayed the characteristics that would form the core of the system for...

    • 18 Progressivism, Prohibition, and Politics, 1900-1920
      (pp. 272-291)

      Goebel had been shot. Mortally wounded from a rifle bullet that had passed through his body, he was taken for treatment to a room in a nearby hotel. Governor Taylor declared that a “state of insurrection” existed, called out the militia, and ordered the legislature to reconvene in a safer location, in this case the Republican stronghold of London, Kentucky. Democratic legislators refused to recognize the legality of that action, but they found armed soldiers barring them from meeting in the capitol or in several other public places in Frankfort. Gathering secretly in the hotel, with no Republicans present, they...

    • 19 Bourbon Barons, Tobacco Tycoons, and King Coal: The Economy, 1865–1995
      (pp. 292-316)

      Before the Civil War, agriculture had been the economic lifeblood not only of Kentucky but also, in large part, of the nation. At a time when farm products formed a major part of economic wealth, Kentucky was a wealthy state. It ranked high or led nationally in the production of hemp, tobacco, corn, wheat, and livestock. Yet in the decades after the Brothers’ War, Kentucky slowly lost its leadership position, in part because of decisions made within the commonwealth, in part because of events taking place in the United States. Overall, the country was becoming an industrial nation, and agricultural...

    • 20 Culture and Cornmunications, 1865-1995
      (pp. 317-342)

      By the start of the twentieth century, writers usually considered Kentucky as part of the South and often described its cultural mores in negative ways, echoing the manner in which southern culture was frequently portrayed. The commonwealth’s violence before and after the turn of the century only added to an emerging image of a culturally benighted Kentucky. At least into the first third of the 1900s, and perhaps beyond, such national views of the state persisted. Yet the state had made contributions in art, architecture, dance, motion pictures, music, photography, sculpture, and theater; and Kentuckians had real strengths in literature...

    • 21 The Transitional Twenties
      (pp. 343-358)

      The 1920s were years of transition in Kentucky, not because the state and its people suddenly moved from one era to another, but because citizens of the commonwealth confronted change. In that decade modernism moved into Kentucky, but fundamentalism followed with its own counterattacks. The forces of reform and reaction each won victories, but in the end the state rejected extremes and took a course of conservative moderation. The twenties alerted Kentuckians to what might lie ahead, for modern America could not be totally rejected; the years prepared them for the greater changes coming from the New Deal of the...

    • 22 Old Problems and a New Deal
      (pp. 359-375)

      Economically, the 1930s would prove to be one of the most difficult decades in Kentucky’s his and tory. The 1920s, however, had well prepared the state’s residents for hardship.

      Farmers suffered the most. Techniques that depleted and eroded the soils combined with a depressed market for agricultural products in the 1920s to produce agrarian distress. The tobacco economy collapsed soon after the end of World War I, while corn acreage decreased nearly one-fifth between 1920 and 1930. In the five-year period ending in 1928, Kentucky ranked forty-seventh among forty-eight states in farm income; its 1930 per capita farm earnings average...

    • 23 Education and Equality, 1865-1995
      (pp. 376-399)

      When soldiers, black and white, returned from World War II, they found a chaotic educational system that stood near the bottom nationally in most categories. It featured bad facilities, underfunded districts, poorly paid teachers, racial segregation, and political meddling. It also included dedicated people and students who loved learning. Neither characterization represented recent, wartime developments, for behind each stood a long history.

      Commentators on Kentucky had long recognized the importance of education to the commonwealth’s development. A geologist-historian in 1884 concluded that “the educational problem is by far the most serious of all the difficulties before this state.” More than...

    • 24 A Half Century of Kentucky Politics
      (pp. 400-425)

      In 1947 Republican governor Simeon Willis turned the reins of office over to his Democratic successor. That event would mark the beginning of twenty uninterrupted years of governorship by Democrats, coupled with similar control of the state legislature. In the presidential and U.S. senatorial contests, however, the Republicans won the important races in the state more often than did their opposition. By the time Republicans took the governorship again in 1967, when Louie B. Nunn began his term, it seemed that a new majority party might be forming in Kentucky. That was not to be, though, and after Nunn left...

    • 25 New Challenges, Old Traditions
      (pp. 426-444)

      In the half century after World War II, Kentuckians experienced the greatest changes in their recorded history. The atomic age arrived. Men walked on the moon. Women’s rights expanded. Segregation ended. Television, air conditioning, and automobile ownership became commonplace. Almost instant communications resulted from the presence in virtually every home of radios, telephones, and televisions, as well as fax machines and computers in many. The world grew smaller, and opportunities to visit foreign areas grew wider through easily available airplane travel. Trips that took months a century before now took a day; information that would formerly have taken days or...

  9. Appendix A: Some Facts and Figures
    (pp. 445-445)
  10. Appendix B: Kentucky’s Governors
    (pp. 446-450)
  11. Appendix C: Kentucky’s Counties
    (pp. 451-452)
  12. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 453-499)
  13. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 500-502)
  14. Index
    (pp. 503-533)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 534-534)