Please email or share this article!

Kentucky State History Facts

Different peoples occupied the land that is known today as Kentucky for thousands of years.

One group was known as the Woodland peoples, which included the Hopewell and the Adena tribes.

Seal Of Kentucky

By the 1600s, the Mississippian, the Fort tribes, the Delaware, the Cherokee, and the Shawneealso lived in the area.

The area was especially rich in wild game and fish.

Serpent Mound The Century

Appalachian Mountains

Cliffs Above Gauley

The Appalachian Mountains stopped most Europeans from traveling as far west as Kentucky.

However, in 1750, an explorer by the name of Dr. Thomas Walker discovered a pass into the land of Kentucky.

This pass was called the Cumberland Gap.

Thomas Walker

European Settlers

In 1763, the British promised the Native American tribes that they would not allow settlers past the Appalachian Mountains.

This promise could not be kept because colonists continued to travel to Kentucky and set up settlements.

The first permanent settlement was Harrodsburg in 1774.

Cumberland Gap

More and more European settlers flowed into the area making it very difficult for the tribes to find food.

Dunmore’s War

Sir Joshua Reynolds

The Shawnee were very angry that they were losing their hunting grounds to settlers building homes.

They attacked the settlers and Lord Dunmore, the governor of Virginia declared war against the Shawnee.

When the battle ended, the Shawnee and the settlers decided to use the Ohio River as the border between native land and the colonial settlers’ land.

Par Le Sr Bellin Clip

The Wilderness Road

In 1775, more settlers moved into the area of Kentucky led by Daniel Boone and established a town called Boonesborough.

The Cumberland Gap trail was improved to allow wagons through. The trail through the Cumberland Gap eventually became known as the Wilderness Road.

Wilderness Road

Kentucky Becomes a State

Originally Kentucky was part of the state of Virginia. In 1792, Kentucky applied and was granted statehood and became the 15th state of the United States.

At the beginning of the Civil War, Kentucky was a slave state but wanted to stay neutral and refused to take sides.

When Kentucky was invaded by the Confederate Army, Kentucky decided to join the Union.

Kentucky Schild

Interestingly, the leaders of the Civil War were both born in Kentucky.

These were Abraham Lincoln, the leader of the Union, and Jefferson Davis, the leader of the Confederates – both Kentuckians.

Quiz Time!

quiz activity for kids


By 1600, what tribes occupied the area that became known as Kentucky by 1600?

What stopped European settlers from moving into Kentucky?

What was the Cumberland Gap?

What did Daniel Boone do in 1775 to help the settlers?

Why did Kentucky, a slave state, finally join the Unionist Army during the Civil War?

Slave dance


By 1600, the Hopewell, the Adena, the Mississippian, the Fort, the Delaware, the Cherokee, and the Shawnee occupied the area that became known as Kentucky.

European settlers couldn’t find a way across the Appalachian Mountains.

In 1770, Dr. Thomas Walker found a gap through the Appalachian Mountains, which became known as the Cumberland Gap.

Singleshot Mountain In Glacier National Park Montana

In 1775, Daniel Boone improved the trail of the Cumberland Gap and led settlers through to Kentucky; this became known as the Wilderness Road.

Kentucky was a slave state but joined the Union when the Confederate Army invaded Kentucky during the Civil War.

US State History


Leave a Comment