KENTUCKY - A GUIDE TO THE BLUEGRASS STATE (1939)
Railroads: Baltimore & Ohio R.R. (B&O); Chesapeake & Ohio Ry.
(C&O); Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis Ry. (Big Four,
N. Y. Central System) ; Chicago, Indianapolis & Louisville Ry.
(Monon Route); Frankfort & Cincinnati R.R. (F&C); Flemingsburg
& Northern R.R. (F&N); Illinois Central R.R. (1C); Louisville &
Nashville R.R. (L&N); Mobile & Ohio R.R. (M&O); Nashville,
Chattanooga & St. Louis Ry. (NC&St.L); Pennsylvania R.R. (PRR);
Southern Ry. (Southern) (see Transportation map).
Bus Lines: Blue Ribbon Lines, Gibbs Bus Line, Greyhound Lines,
Meadors & Allen, Mohawk Stages, and Southern Limited furnish
scheduled interstate service. Many other lines furnish intrastate
Air Lines: American Airlines (Cleveland, Fort Worth, Los Angeles);
Eastern Airlines (Chicago, Miami) (see Transportation map).
Highways: Fifteen Federal highways. Even numbers run east and
west; US 60 is transcontinental. Odd numbers run north and south.
State highway patrolled. Gas tax 6#. (See State map for routes.)
Motor Vehicle Laws (digest): Maximum speed, 40 m.p.h., not enforced;
greater speed permitted when practicable; residential sections
and curves, 20 m.p.h.; congested areas, 15 m.p.h. No licenses required
for nonresidents over 16 yrs. of age provided driver has a home State
license. Hand signals must be used.
Warning: Persons charged with operating motor vehicles in Louisville
while drunk or under the influence of liquor upon conviction will be
fined $19 and sentenced to nine days' imprisonment. From such penalties
the law allows no appeals, age, sex, color or social pretensions notwithstanding.
Prohibited: Operation of automobiles by persons under 16 yrs. of age
unaccompanied by person over 21 yrs. of age. Parking on highways
(see General Information for large cities for local traffic regulations).
Recreational Areas and Accommodations: Mammoth Cave National
Park (see Tours 7 and 6): two new modern hotels, rates from $1;
guides compulsory, available day and night, fee of $2 covers admission,
no tax; open all year; temperature in cave remains 54 F. throughout
year. Cumberland Falls State Park (see Tours 3 and 4), open
May 15-Oct. 1, overnight camping, 25 cents ; State-owned DuPont Lodge,
rate per day from $2; Moonbow Inn, per day from $1.50; 15 cabins,
rate per day per couple $2, 75 cents for extra lodgers; modern conveniences.
Butler Memorial State Park (see Tour 12), May 15-Oct. 1, boating
on Lake Butler 25 cents ; fishing 25 cents ; overnight camping 25 cents ; cabins.
Columbus-Belmont State Park (see Tour 10): recreational facilities
and cabins. Levi Jackson Wilderness Road State Park (see Tour 4):
overnight camping 25 cents ; fishing and swimming 25 cents ; cabins, picnic
grounds, camping, all improvements. Pine Mountain State Park (see
Tour 4A): open-air auditorium, picnic grounds, observation tower.
Natural Bridge State Park (see Tour 2): Hemlock Lodge, cabins, auto
bridge. Audubon Memorial State Park (see Tours 8 and 16): shelter
houses, picnic tables, tearoom and lake. Dawson Springs State Park
(see Tour 14): picnic grounds, trails, shelter house. Blue and Gray
State Park (see Tour 20): golf links, cabins, shelter houses, picnic
tables and ovens, lake. Pioneer Memorial State Park (see Tours 5
and 15) : museum, cabins in the fort, Lincoln Chapel. Blue Licks Battlefield
State Park (see Tour 15): overnight camping 25 cents , museum,
open-air auditorium, trails. Cumberland National Forest: 992,605
acres; camps. Admission to recreational areas, adults 10cents , children
S#, except Pioneer Memorial State Park adults 25 cents , children 10cents and
Blue Licks Battlefield State Park adults 1S#, children 5#; Cumberland
National Forest, no charge.
General Accommodations: Few in eastern Kentucky except in larger
towns; adequate elsewhere in State.
General Service for Tourists: AAA in larger towns, also Courier-Journal
in Louisville. When road conditions are doubtful, information should
be obtained at nearest filling station, especially in eastern Kentucky.
Poisonous Snakes and Plants: Rattlesnakes, copperheads, and cottonmouth
moccasins are uncommon except in southern and northwest section
of the State and in cypress swamps. Poison ivy and poison sumac
common in wooded areas.
Climate and Equipment: Summer travelers should be prepared for very
warm weather, especially in July and August. Spring days are intermittently
cool and warm, with frequent showers and late snow flurries.
Topcoats needed. Winters generally cold, with heavy frosts and sometimes
snow. In mountainous areas the snow glazes into dangerously
slippery ice and extreme caution is necessary, especially on the north
side of hills. Frozen dirt edges of mountain roads should be avoided.
Fish and Game Laws (digest) : Game fish defined as black bass, trout,
crappie, rock bass or goggle-eye.
Open Season for Fishing: All months except May.
Fishing License: Nonresident, $2.50. Seven-day nonresident fishing, $1.
Limits: Black bass and trout limit, 10 per day, not more than 20 in
possession at one time; unlawful under 11 in. Crappie limit IS per
day; not more than 30 in possession at one time; unlawful under
Open Season for Hunting (dates inclusive): Quail, Nov. 24-Jan. 9;
wild turkey and imported pheasant protected at all times, no open
season; doves, 12 M. to 6 P.M., Sept. 1-Dec. 15; woodcock, Nov. 15-
Dec. 31; jacksnipe, wild duck, and wild geese, State law in conflict
with Federal regulations comply with Federal regulations. English
sparrows, great horned owl, sharp-shinned hawk, crow and crowblackbird,
not protected; deer and elk protected at all times, no open
season; rabbit, Nov. 25-Jan. 9; squirrels, Aug. 1-Nov. 1; woodchuck
or ground hog, not protected; beaver, raccoon, mink, otter, skunk and
opossum lawful to kill Nov. 15-Dec. 31.
Hunting License: Nonresident, $10.50. Resident, $1.00.
Limits: Quail, 12 per day, season limit 75, penalty for violation $15
to $50 per quail; doves, 15 per day; woodcock, 6 per day, not over
24 in possession at one time.
Kentucky: The General
KENTUCKY is far from being a unified region. Though known
as the Bluegrass State, it divides into three sections which
differ as sharply in geography, culture, economic activity, and social
habit as if they were widely separated areas. These are the Bluegrass,
the Eastern Mountains, and Western Kentucky. Each is populated
by people who have adjusted themselves to their environment,
and who in the process have developed habits and attitudes differing
markedly from those of their fellows in the other divisions. Literature
concerning Kentucky often fails clearly to identify the section which
forms its locale, and readers unacquainted with local conditions are
apt to mistake a single section for the State as a whole.
Except for Louisville, Kentucky has no large industrial centers. Most
of its 2,900,000 people dwell in small rural communities. Like other
agrarian folk they bear the mark of their association with the soil. The
rural Kentuckian, whether clad in faded overalls or imported woolens,
is an individualist. The rustic lolling at the street corners of towns and
villages may give every evidence of being lost or out of place; but try
to get the better of him in a trade and often he will prove master of
the situation. He may be ragged, dirty, and ignorant, but he is still
endowed with something of the unawed self-reliance and resourceful
wit of the pioneer.
Wherever a Kentuckian may be, he is more than willing to boast of
the beauties and virtues of his native State. He believes without reservation
that Kentucky is the garden spot of the world, and is ready to
dispute with anyone who questions the claim. In his enthusiasm for his
State he compares with the Methodist preacher whom Timothy Flint
heard tell a congregation that "Heaven is a Kentucky of a place."
After describing the material and cultural well-being of the State, the
Kentuckian is likely to begin on its brilliant history. But, unless he is
engaged in historical research, the native son's history of Kentucky does
not chiefly refer to the part played by the State in the westward expansion
of the Nation, to the frontier democracy established by pioneer
statesmen on Kentucky soil, or to the State constitution that was
framed at a time when it was difficult to gain majority approval for
any act of polity. The native son has not pursued his subject through
the trying decades of the nineteenth century, nor has he given much
thought to the State's role in the twentieth. History, to him, centers on
his family. When his ancestors crossed the Appalachians, the family
was the core of community life, and the Kentuckian has never lost sight
of the importance of his family attachment. His main personal concern
is his family's welfare. Many Kentuckians., especially women, spend
much time searching genealogical records, not to prove themselves
descended from prominent persons, but from sheer love of becoming
familiar with their personal pedigrees.
The Kentuckian's love of family is often illustrated in the way in
which politicians elected to office give public jobs to their kinsmen. In
many instances the victorious Kentucky politician honestly fails to
understand why there is anything blamable in such conduct. When a
kinsman needs a job, "nepotism" is only a word. And it is difficult to
place a limit on a Kentuckian's sense of kinsmanship. Parents, grandparents,
brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, and cousins are part of any
family pattern; but to the list of a Kentuckian's cousins there seems
no end. There are not only first and second cousins ; there are cousins
even to the tenth degree removed. It is sometimes said that every
mountaineer is related to every other mountaineer; but the same observation
applies to a considerable extent to people everywhere in the
Next to his family, a Kentuckian's home community occupies the
place of importance in his fancy. When viewed from a national standpoint
the State itself is of major importance, but on his home ground
a Kentuckian never forgets his native county. He may move to Lexington,
Bowling Green, or Louisville during his mature years, but he continuously
looks with reverence upon the place of his birth. Visitors to
many Kentucky communities will be impressed in finding there some
of the important relics of American history. Not only have local historians
and anthropologists collected important historical relics, but
they have also armed themselves with much historical information concerning
their community's place in history. A traveler can, if he is
lucky, locate the places where "D. Boon cilled a bar on this tree in
1760"; where John Fitch "invented" the steamboat; where Kit Carson
was born; where Joseph Bruen built a locomotive; where the first railroad
of the West was built ; where scores of battles were fought ; where
Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis were born; where "Uncle Tom"
was sold; where courthouses were scarred by bullets from feudists'
guns, and innumerable other points of interest. All of this colorful
background is grist to the local historians' mill, and it is used to good
The average Kentuckian may appear a bit confused in his knowledge
of history, but he is firmly certain about current politics. Kentucky
cannot claim first place in political importance, but it tops the list in
its keen enjoyment of politics for its own sake. It takes the average
Kentuckian only a matter of moments to dispose of the weather and
personal health, but he never tires of a political discussion. Perhaps the
most obvious thing about Kentucky politics is the fact that there it is
a continuous campaign. Telegraph poles, fence posts, and trees are
seldom free of political posters. It is not at all unusual to see campaign
workers pulling the tacks out of old posters and using them in
nailing up new ones. If politics ceased to be practical, Kentuckians
would lose an excellent excuse for having community picnics, fried
chicken dinners, and fish fries. Even the famed Kentucky burgoo
would lose much of its flavor. Perhaps few indoor pastimes yield such
keen enjoyment as predicting the future turn of political affairs.
Notwithstanding the fact that its white population, like that of most
Southern States, is "Nordic," Kentucky's course in the Civil War was
unlike that of the South in general. The State persisted in remaining
neutral, while at the same time it contributed many soldiers to both the
Northern and the Southern armies. When the war ended, Kentucky
was left in a sharply divided state of mind. Where other Southern
States were unanimously Democratic, Kentucky's voters were divided
between the Democratic and Republican parties. This division still
prevails in varying degree, and at times lends an interesting complexion
to State politics.
In matters of culture Kentucky has been forced, with other Southern
States, to change its course completely. It was slow to adopt the idea
of public education, and it was not until after the Civil War that the
idea of common schools became thoroughly entrenched in the Kentucky
mind. There was no real antagonism to this idea before the war, but a
convincing precedent was lacking. When pioneer parents were rearing
large families on the frontier, they accepted the idea that their family
was solely their own responsibility, and that, if it was educated, they
had to pay the bill individually. Even yet there is opposition to public
schools on this ground. However, Kentucky has progressed to the
point of accepting common schools as a necessity. Not only has the
public school experienced its most progressive years since the war, but
so, likewise, have institutions of higher learning. The University of
Kentucky is a post-war institution, and so are teachers' colleges. During
the past three decades the number of illiterates has been greatly
reduced. Where communities were once denied the privilege of public
education, they now have fairly well-equipped schools.
Where public schools have made rapid strides, other cultural agencies
have thrived. Towns and villages are establishing libraries and are
making available, through local and State agencies, literature which
heretofore had been denied to isolated readers. There are several institutions
engaged in collecting and preserving historical materials and
Kentuckiana. These agencies are beginning to make up for the losses
which Kentucky has experienced in the past. Never before have Kentuckians
been so conscious of the cultural possibilities of their State.
Kentuckians have never neglected the pleasures of life. From the
time when his forebears hunted through the woods by day and danced
about the campfire at night, the Kentuckian has been a sporting,
pleasure-loving individual. Following the Civil War, travelers through
the State remarked that the trains were forever crowded with lighthearted
passengers either going to, or coming from, a dance. Racing,
baseball, and football have enjoyed considerable prestige. Horse racing
is accepted as a matter of fact. When natives of other States see Kentuckians
poring over racing forms on Saturday and crowding into
churches on Sunday, it is hard for them to understand the apparent
incongruity. Yet it is this devotion to both piety and pleasure which
is, perhaps, the most distinguishing characteristic of the people of
KENTUCKY, lying on the western slope of the Alleghenies, is
bounded on the north by the northern bank of the Ohio River,
on the northeast and southeast by West Virginia and Virginia, on the
south by Tennessee, and on the west by the Mississippi River. Its
greatest length, east to west, is 425 miles; its greatest breadth 182
miles. The total area is 40,598 square miles, including 417 miles of
"A peculiar situation exists at the extreme southwest corner," the
U. S. Geological Survey Bulletin 817 states, "where, owing to a double
bend in the Mississippi River, there is an area of about 10 square miles
belonging to Kentucky that cannot be reached from the rest of the
State without passing through a part of Missouri or Tennessee."
The State's topographic variations are mainly the result of slow or
rapid erosion, according to the degree of resistance encountered in particular
rock strata. The mountains in the sandstone region, the occasional
deep gorges or underground drainage systems in the limestone
area, and the swamp flats and oxbow lagoons in the far western part
of the State, indicate the force, extent, and direction of erosive processes.
Reelfoot Lake, in the far southwest, resulted from the earthquake
of 1811-12. It is the only lake of importance in Kentucky,
although the edge of the Highland Rim Plateau in the southwest is
pocked with numerous small bodies of still water. These are sinkholes
which have choked with vegetable matter and retained the water that
drained into them.
The Ohio and Mississippi Rivers flow west and south, and form the
State's main drainage channel. The Cumberland River, except for a
small portion in the south-central region, the Big Sandy, the Licking,
the Kentucky, the Green, the Tradewater, and the Tennessee Rivers
follow the general northwest slope of the Allegheny Plateau. About
3,000 miles of river course are navigable.
Kentucky has six natural physiographic regions: (1) Mountain, (2)
Knobs, (3) Bluegrass, (4) Pennyrile, (5) Western Coal Field, and (6)
The Mountain region, containing 10,450 square miles, is the remains
of a great westerly sloping plateau which has been cut by streams into
a region of narrow valleys lying between sharp ridges. The Cumberland
and Pine Mountain ranges, near the southeastern border, are
"erosion" mountains carved from the upturned edges of hard sandstone.
Between them lies the Middlesboro Basin, in which are the
State's highest mountains. Here are the Cumberland and Pine Mountain
ranges, with the Little and Big Black Mountain ranges between.
The highest point in the State is at Big Black Mountain, 4,150 feet
above sea level, in Harlan County on the southeastern boundary line.
To the west and northwest the mountain crests gradually lower until
they merge with the uplands of the Bluegrass and the Pennyrile; the
elevation drops from about 2,000 feet in the southeast to less than 800
feet along the western rim. The lowest point in the State is 257 feet
above sea level, near Hickman in Fulton County, at the extreme southwest.
The larger streams in the Mountain region have some wide flood
plains with alluvial and rock terraces. Wind gaps, such as Cumberland
Gap, and the water gaps, like the Breaks of Sandy, are of frequent
occurrence. The surface rocks are sandstones and shales, with practically
no limestones. The valley soils are deep and yield excellent crops.
Soils on the ridges are thin and easily washed away during cultivation.
The Knobs region is bounded on the inner side by the rolling Bluegrass
downs, and on the outer by the escarpments at the edge of the
mountain region in the east, and of the Pennyrile in the west. It has
the appearance of an irregular plain out of which rise many erosive
remnants of the Mountain and Pennyrile plateaus. The knoblike
shapes frequently seen in these remnants have suggested the name of
the region. The escarpments, also considered part of the Knobs, rise
from 200 to 500 feet above the drainage and cover an area of about
2,200 square miles. The Kentucky and the Ohio Rivers are the only
navigable streams here. The soils, composed largely of weathered
shales, erode rapidly when cultivated, and for this reason large areas
remain wooded. While not rich, they will yield good crops under
proper cultivation. The larger part of the Cumberland National Forest
lies in the eastern Knobs.
Within the encircling arms of the Knobs on one side, and the Ohio
River on the other, lies the Bluegrass region, about 8,000 square miles
in extent. It is a gently rolling upland, from 800 to 1,000 feet above
sea level. Almost everywhere it is cleared of its original forests and is
either cultivated or in pasturage. A few open, grass-swarded woodlands
remain, especially around the more pretentious manors ; and there
are uncleared glens and dells where the smaller streams fall rapidly
from the high downs to the main streams.
This region is divided into three sections, differentiated by their underlying
Ordovician limestone : the inner Bluegrass, the Eden shale belt,
and the outer Bluegrass. The first, about 2,400 square miles, has the
richest soils due to the underlying limestones with their high phosphate
content. Its surface is very gently rolling. The second, about 2,500
square miles, lies as a broad belt around the inner Bluegrass, and is
underlain by limestone not so rich in phosphorus, and with a large
shale and silica content. Its soils, while good, are easily eroded, producing
steep slopes and V-shaped valleys. The third is like the first,
but the soils on the whole are not quite so rich.
The large area lying at the southern end of the central plain, of which
the Bluegrass region is the northern section, is known as the Pennyrile.
Pennyrile takes its name from the local pronunciation of Pennyroyal,
an annual plant of the mint family, which grows luxuriantly in this
region. It comprises about 7,800 square miles, and is separated from
the valleys of the western Knob and southern Mountain regions by an
escarpment which, in the Knob area, is called Muldraugh's Hill. The
eastern portions of the region rise 600 and 700 feet above sea level, but
they drop gradually on the west to about 400 or 500 feet, as they approach
the Purchase in the southwest and the western coal fields along
the Ohio. The streams cut broad valleys except in the karst or sinkhole
areas, where only the larger streams flow on the surface.
The scenery of the Pennyrile is varied from gently rolling farm lands
to cliffs and scarps, and from open fields to forested rocky hillsides.
The sinkhole part of the region was originally known as the Barrens,
because the first settlers found it almost completely lacking in trees and
were unable to discover water for themselves and their stock. The lack
of trees was the result of continual forest burnings by the Indians to
make grasslands upon which the buffalo might feed, and the water
scarcity was caused by underground drainage. Neither condition resulted
from any barrenness of soil. After white men gained control of
the region, it was reforested.
Waters, either surface or underground, are abundant. In the underground
drainage courses are thousands of miles of subterranean passages including Mammoth Cave. The soils are principally residual,
varying from sandy and silt loams in the east to the limey, phosphorous
soils in the west. Frequent coatings of loess or windblown deposits are
found on the uplands, and alluvial clays or gravels along the Tennessee
and Cumberland Rivers.
The Western Coal Field, an area of about 4,680 square miles, is
bounded on the north by the Ohio River and elsewhere by the Pennyrile.
The region is characterized by sandstone and wooded ridges, rock
shelters, and cliffs. However, the proportion of level lands is so much
greater that the Western Coal Field in some places resembles the prairie
States. Some valuable timber remains and there are large areas in
which second growth timbers are flourishing. On the uplands the soil
is a yellow silt loam, thin where hilly, but deeper elsewhere. Transported
soils cover the bottom lands.
The Purchase (2,569 square miles), so named from the fact that it
was bought from the Chickasaw Indians, is bounded by the Tennessee,
Ohio, and Mississippi Rivers, and the Tennessee State Line. The general
topographic relief is the lowest in the State. Gently rolling uplands
and wide flood plains are the rule along the larger streams.
Stream bluffs, cypress swamps, oxbow lagoons, and an occasional deep
erosive gully are common sights. The soft rocks of the region erode
rapidly. Transported soils cover the Purchase except in a narrow strip,
just west of the Tennessee River, where residual soils are found.
Yellow-brown silt loam is prevalent.
The average annual rainfall in Kentucky is about 45 inches, which
places the State within the humid belt so important for agriculture
and manufacturing. The climatic changes from north to south account
for a difference of approximately one week in the growing seasons. Periods
of excessive rainfall or drought are rarely great enough to effect
serious damage to crops.
The climate of the whole State is temperate and healthful. The
mean annual temperature is around 60 F. In the summer months it
ranges from 75 F. in eastern Kentucky to 78 F. in the west; and in
the winter around 36 F. in all sections. Temperatures of 100 F. are
very rare, but marks of 80 F. and above have occurred even in midwinter.
Below-zero temperatures occur with moderate frequency in
December, January, and February, and 28 F. has been experienced
twice in the eastern half during the past 60 years.
The last killing frosts generally occur from April 15 to 23 and the
first from October 13 to 21. The growing season is from 174 to 189
days. In the eastern part of Kentucky the average number of rainy
days is about 118 a year 5 to 9 in each of the fall months from September
to November, inclusive, and 10 to 13 for each of the other
months. The average number of rainy days in the west is about 104,
of which the months from September to November inclusive have 5
to 8, and the other months from 8 to 12.
Prevailing winds are from the south and southwest, with north and
northwest winds frequent in winter. Seven to ten miles is the average
hourly wind velocity.
The animal life of Kentucky is representative of areas as far apart
as the marshes of Louisiana and the forests of New England and
Two large groups of fauna that once were common to the State have
now disappeared: prehistoric, or Pleistocene mammals, skeletons of
which have been found in various parts of the State but chiefly at Big
Bone Lick in Boone County; and species that were killed off or driven
away in the course of the settlement of the State. In the first class
were mastodons, mammoths, giant wolves, beaver, elk, and moose.
Early travelers and explorers were greatly impressed by the giant bones,
and often wrote extravagant stories about them. Even more interest
attaches to the animals that were almost fabulously plentiful when the
settlers came. The bison, or buffalo, grazed the central plains of the
Barrens and Bluegrass in numbers comparable with those of the Great
Plains west of the Mississippi. It is thought that this species disappeared
from the State about 1820, soon after the settlement of the
Jackson Purchase. The beaver was less abundant here than farther
north, but it survived in small numbers until a generation ago. Hairraising
stories are still told about the panther or puma (locally called
"painter"), once fairly common but now extinct in the State.
The wild turkey, still found in small numbers in remote places, particularly
in the eastern mountains and other wooded sections, may be
re-established in the State and National parks and the larger forests
under proper protection. The area considered most suitable for this
purpose in western Kentucky is the Coalings, a wild, wooded tract between
the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers, now taken over by the
Stories told about the passenger pigeon a hundred and more years
ago sound impossible today although "pigeon roost" is found in place
names in practically every part of the State. Alexander Wilson, in the
Shelbyville area, estimated in 1810 that he saw millions of birds in one
day. Audubon, in 1813, on his way to Louisville from Hardinsburg,
counted 163 flocks in 23 minutes. Enormous areas in the various parts
of the State were used by this species for nesting places. Wilson described
one on the upper part of Green River, above the site of Greensburg;
Audubon pictured another near the mouth of Green River not
far from Henderson.
Another species, long a mark for hunters and therefore almost destroyed,
was the Carolina Louisiana parrakeet, which the Audubon
societies are protecting in the Everglades of Florida. In earlier days
this beautiful little parrot was found in abundance around sycamore
groves, salt licks, and fields of cockleburs. The ruffed grouse, hunted
intensively from the very beginning of the settlement, still exists in
small numbers. The prairie chicken, once found in many sections, disappeared
after the Barrens and the Jackson Purchase were opened to
While game birds like the prairie chicken and the wild turkey soon
became scarce around the settlements, most of the songbirds have increased
enormously. In earlier days ravens also were common; now
only the wildest areas of the mountains harbor them. The chimney
swift and the nighthawk, on the other hand, have greatly profited by
the coming of civilization. The swift, formerly nesting in hollow trees,
has thoroughly adapted itself to chimneys, and the Kentucky Ornithological
Society has no record of any nesting in trees within the memory
of the present generation.
Almost 300 species of birds have been observed in Kentucky, most
of them in land habitations. The great marsh country on the Kentucky-
Tennessee border, north of Reelfoot Lake, is the breeding ground
of American egrets, great blue herons, snakebirds, double-crested cormorants,
and other waterfowl. Huge flocks of waterfowl pass over
the State in their migrations, and can sometimes be seen on streams
and ponds. On a "wet-weather lake" near Bowling Green, observers
have counted 36 species of waterfowl.
Of the 150 to 175 species of birds found in Kentucky in an average
year, about IS are winter residents, including the white-throated and
white-crowned sparrows, the slate-colored junco, the golden-crowned
kinglet, and the yellow-bellied sapsucker. Numbered among the summer
residents are the catbird, brown thrasher, bronzed grackle, crested
flycatcher, Bachman and grasshopper sparrows, and Kentucky and
yellow warblers. The shy warblers are represented by more than a
dozen types that spend the summer here. The mockingbird, bluebird,
cardinal, bluejay, Carolina chickadee, tufted titmouse, and towhee are
among the 35 to 40 well known species that remain throughout the
The United States Bureau of Biological Survey states that "observers
in the Mississippi Valley probably witness the passage of greater
numbers of varieties of birds than can be observed in any other river
valley of the world." The area south of the mouth of the Ohio River
is part of the great wintering grounds of the waterfowl; the Ohio
River from Louisville up as far as Catlettsburg is another concentration
area. Ornithologists at the Falls of the Ohio, at Louisville, have recorded
in recent years nearly all the species of waterfowl that visit the
State. The migration routes follow the Ohio, Mississippi, and Tennessee
Rivers; land birds, particularly the warblers, have another great
route through central Kentucky, a little to the east of Mammoth Cave,
along what the geologists call the Dripping Springs Escarpment.
Small mammals exist in surprisingly large numbers, especially in the
rocky areas. Red and gray foxes, minks, muskrats, raccoons, opossums,
red and gray squirrels, cottontail rabbits, marsh rabbits (in the Purchase),
and hosts of smaller species are found nearly everywhere. In
the Jackson Purchase the large marsh rabbit and an occasional otter
are still seen and in central Kentucky the woodchuck is common. The
caves are thickly populated with bats and many kinds of rodents.
Over a hundred species of fish have been found in Kentucky. Of
the game fishes, the one most closely identified with Kentucky (particularly
the Barren and Green River section) is the muskallonge, known
locally as jackfish or jack salmon. Three of the bass group, the largeand
small-mouth and the Kentucky, are found throughout the State.
Many other fishes are widely distributed: the crappie, bluegill, rock
bass, drumfish or white perch, red horse, white sucker, and buffalo.
Two kinds of catfish channel and blue are often taken; some are
very large specimens. Among the species of interest principally to
ichthyologists are the eel, the spoonbill, the sturgeon, minnows of many
species, darters, and the several blind and semi-blind species of cave
The efforts of the State game and fish commission to safeguard and
restore wild life resources have met with much success. Stationed
everywhere are vigilant wardens, who not only protect game, but also
educate the people in the proper uses of woodland and streams.
The State has introduced deer, quail, and fish wherever conditions
seem favorable, and the Federal Bureau of Fisheries maintains a station
and breeding pond at Louisville, from which thousands of fish
are distributed annually throughout the State. In eastern Kentucky
the State has 12 game refuges where deer, bear, fur bearers, turkey,
ruffed grouse, and quail are propagated; and two fish hatcheries where
the species best adapted for the region are produced. In central Kentucky
are 22 game refuges for upland game birds, pheasants, and furbearing
animals, and one fish hatchery for black bass. The bass
hatchery at Herrington Lake was one of the first to produce black bass
under artificial conditions. In the near-famine years fish are seined
from the overflowed lands in the Purchase and distributed where
Amphibians, numerous and widely distributed, include the congo
snake or blind eel (Amphiuma means), several species of waterdogs
and salamanders, including the wicked-looking hellbender; bullfrogs,
green frogs, leopard frogs, many varieties of tree frogs, and two species
of toads. Common turtles are numerous, as are the alligator, snapping,
soft-shelled, pond, and land varieties, and the well-known box or
Carolina terrapin. Only four poisonous species of snake have been
recorded: the timber rattler, copperhead, cottonmouth, and coral. Of
these, the first two are widely distributed; the cottonmouth is apparently
confined to the Purchase, and the coral, a southern species, is
found only along the Tennessee border. Nonpoisonous snakes are
much more plentiful. The blacksnake and its near relatives, the pine,
the bull, and the chicken snake abound, and this is true also of the
king snake and several species of water snakes. The brown or fence
lizard, like the six line lizard or scorpion, is known everywhere. Less
known are the several varieties of skinks and the fabulous glass or
joint snake, which can shed its tail when attacked. All the lizards are
useful and harmless. Several species of crawfish, clams, and snails
are known to most fishermen and hunters.
Kentucky flora ranges from sub-boreal in the Eastern Mountains to
semi-tropical in the Mississippi River bottoms'. Each of the State's six
topographic and geologic regions has its peculiar type of flora; and in
each of these regions are minor floral divisions, resulting from variations
in elevation, moisture, soils, exposure, and the work of man.
The most varied plant life occurs in the Eastern Mountains, where
clearing and cultivation have not disturbed the native flora. Here are
found the large-leafed rhododendron, azalea, blueberry, huckleberry,
ferns in great profusion, and the magnolia. Throughout the highland
region the rhododendron is at its loveliest in June; and in this month,
over all the rockier parts of the mountains, the mountain laurel or
calico-bush is in bloom. Perhaps the loveliest flower in the mountains
is the great laurel, or mountain rosebay (Rhododendron catawbaiense) ,
which covers hill and cliff with bell-shaped, rose-purple flowers, seen in
full bloom only in the protected ravines of the Pine Mountains.
Four species of magnolia the great-leafed, the small-leafed cucumber
tree, the ear-leafed, and the umbrella tree bloom in late May or
early June. The waxy gloss of their leaves and their huge, but delicate,
pure white, sweet-scented blossoms give them a tropical appearance.
Again in the fall they catch the eye with their crimson seed cones.
An aberrant member of the magnolia family, the tulip tree, called
yellow poplar in Kentucky, grows in all parts of the State. In May
and June it produces dainty chalices of green, tinted with orange.
Because of its value for lumber, the supply of larger specimens has
In May and June the mountains bloom with trillium, bloodroot,
bluebell, wildginger, dogtooth violet, sour-wood, firepink, mosspink,
groundpink, violet, bluet, dogwood, crab apple, dwarf-iris, yellow and
pink lady-slipper, and dozens of other species. From early summer
to the first frosts, the long growing season brings from blossom to
maturity the wild strawberry, serviceberry, haw, wild grape, persimmon,
and papaw. Edible nuts for winter consumption include the
chestnut, chinquapin (both rare today), beechnut, hazelnut, walnut,
Visitors to the Bluegrass region who expect to find the color of its
famous grass blue in the summer months are disappointed. Only in
May do the blue anthers of its blossoms give the grass a distinctly
steel-blue tint. It grows luxuriantly in the limestone phosphorus soils
of the Bluegrass region and sporadically in the limestone soils of the
Pennyrile but does not prosper elsewhere. In its chosen habitat bluegrass
is unequaled as turf and for pasturage, but it is rarely cut for
hay. On many farms in central Kentucky it is grazed every month of
Few untouched wild spots are left in the Bluegrass region. Park-like
lawns and open, grassy woodland patches surround the farm houses;
but along steep banks and in the deep dells much of the original flora
of the region survives. Here, in spring, are hidden the purple trillium,
springbeauty, dwarf-iris, pink catchfly, bloodroot, stonecrop, columbine,
and ferns of every sort. Dogwood and redbud spread their lacy, tinted
draperies over the vernal slopes. Later in the summer, purple, white,
and blue asters and hosts of other blossoms cover the rocks and find
foothold in every pinch of soil between them. In the fields and open
places goldenrod vies with bridal-wreath aster in the autumn. Along
the streams the artichoke, a sunflower with edible roots, and the goldenglow,
very like the artichoke in size and color, cover the bottom lands
and banks with gold. Tall purple composites, the ironweed and
meadow beauty (deer grass), grace the open woodlands or low meadows.
In the Eden shale soils of the Bluegrass several species of red-haw
flourish; these are white with blossoms in the spring, and in the fall
are hung with the red berries that children string into long necklaces
and belts. When unmolested the red-haw grows from ten to twenty
feet high, but cattle browse it to the size of bushes, a fact that suggests
their usefulness as hedges.
Old fields in the acid soils and even in the more alkaline soils of the
Pennyrile are sometimes covered with clumps of broomsedge, a grasslike
plant that grows green in the spring and brown in autumn. When
growing thick, it looks like a field of grain and is eaten sparingly by
the livestock. Farmers consider it a pest, however, and often burn
over patches of the weed.
Everywhere are the climbing vines grapes, wistaria, trumpetvine,
Virginia creeper, and poison ivy. Poison ivy, which smothers fence
posts along the highways, grows rankly wherever it finds support. Its
three-fingered compound leaves, greenish flowers, and white berries are
easily identified, especially in the morning when the plant is covered
Western Kentucky may be divided into two broad floral grounds: the
upland division, represented by hill or knob land; and the lowland or
river valley division. The upland flora, although more widely distributed,
is less luxuriant than that of the lowland. Extensive ranges
of oak forests cover many of the knobs, their rich green foliage making
a shady habitat for herbaceous plants. Early spring bedecks these
forests with the golden yellow buttercup, the toothwort, springbeauty,
and the delicate rue anemone. The birdsfoot violet, the most beautiful
native kind, often carpets a gravelly knoll.
Deep, moist ravines are canopied by sugar maple and beech, where
the rich humus yields the trim wake-robin, in tones of brown and
green, and the ever popular Indian turnip (Jack-in-the-pulpit). The
bloodroot, bellwort, Solomon's-seal, Greek valerian, waterleaf, wild
sweet William, butterfly weed, trout lily, numerous violets, and other
plants furnish a continuous sequence of blossom in the spring. Perhaps
the greatest beauty of these woods is at the flowering time of the
dogwood and redbud, everywhere abundant.
In summer the dryness of the soil in this area reduces the number
of flowering plants. For the most part, plants either make their growth
and flower in the spring, or wait until the approach of autumn. Then
the roadsides are bordered with goldenrod, the royal purple ironweed,
and the sky-blue wild ageratum. Entire fields are covered with a sea
of gold as the yellow tickseed comes into flower. Several species of
asters herald the approach of frost, as the hills are transformed almost
overnight into masses of glowing color.
The overflow lands of the lowland area support a tropical luxuriance
of vegetation, particularly in the wooded parts. Trees attain a larger
growth here than in the uplands. Nearly all the eastern North American
oaks are represented, even the southern willow oak, and there are,
in addition, several varieties of hickory (including the pecan), species
of ash, besides the maple, willow, cottonwood, sycamore, sweetgum,
blackgum, and many others. The picturesque river birch, with its thin,
papery bark hanging in shreds, stands out in bold contrast to the
smooth silver maples with which it often grows.
Early spring flowers are not abundant, but summer and fall bring a
wealth of color as the Indian pinks, the milkweeds, ruellia, cardinal
flower, great blue lobelia, spider lily, and aster and goldenrod come into
prolific flower. Marshy places are fringed with the swamp rose, halberd-
leafed hibiscus, swamp privet, and button bush, and covered with
yellow pond lily and lotus. The Ohio, Mississippi, and lesser rivers, by
their meanderings, have formed numerous oxbow lakes that furnish
ideal conditions for the spread of the bald cypress. These beautiful
trees, with their "knees" protruding from the surface of the water,
often cover large areas. Festoons of catbird grape hang from the
lower branches and climb over the smaller shrubs, extending to the
Kentucky lies in the great hardwood forest region between the Alleghenies
and the western prairies. Before white settlement, three-fourths
of the State was covered with forests unsurpassed in eastern North
America for the size of individual trees and the density of the cover.
Giants six, eight, and ten feet in diameter were not uncommon. The
larger varieties were yellow poplar (tulip tree), sycamore, oak, chestnut,
and walnut. It is told that some of the hollow sycamores were
so large that families were known to have camped in them until they
could build cabins. Today not over one-fourth of the State can be
called forested and very little of this is primeval, nearly all having
been cut over for timber.
Their attractiveness and the ease of settlement upon them led to the
early clearing of limestone lands in the Bluegrass region. Today
about 90 percent of these lands are denuded. The western limestone
lands of the Pennyrile and the delta lands of the Purchase are about
30 percent forested. The most densely forested areas, amounting to
60 or 70 percent of the area, are in the valleys of the Big Sandy, Upper
Licking, Kentucky, and Cumberland Rivers, all in eastern Kentucky.
In the latter area the timber is chiefly composed of oak, chestnut, and
yellow poplar; in the rest of the State it runs to oak and hickory,
except along the lower Ohio and the Mississippi flood plains, where
hardwoods peculiar to river bottoms prevail.
Kentucky's forests have brought their owners considerable wealth,
but commercial exploitation was practically at an end by the close of
the last century. Today the State's forests are still producing moderately,
but not as they did when great sawmills stood on all the
larger streams and logs by the millions floated down in the spring and
fall freshets. As most of the steeper land in Kentucky is better adapted
to the production of trees than to other uses, the tendency is to conserve
forest stands and to cut the timber scientifically, but no thorough
State-wide system of conservation has been adopted. Only in one or
two small areas is reforestation being attempted, where some of the
private landholding companies and individual owners have begun to
reforest their cut-over lands. The establishment of the Cumberland
National Park in eastern Kentucky offers the greatest promise of forest
conservation. This park will contain over a million acres, of which
much is forested, and the rest already is being replanted. The Federal
example points to the necessity for a State forest policy that will increase
timber resources, offer a measure of protection against the too
rapid run-off of storm water, and restore the natural balance in wild
life which reckless exploitation has destroyed.
Geology and Paleontology
The oldest outcropping rock formations in Kentucky are of the
Mid-Ordovician period, an early division of the Paleozoic era, hundreds
of millions of years ago when only the simplest forms of marine
life existed. Cambrian rocks, those from the earliest period of the
Paleozoic, are exposed nowhere in the State, but from a deep well
drilled at Nicholasville in Jessamine County fossil remains of trilobites,
small oval-shaped marine animals, known to have lived in the Cambrian,
have been taken.
The Ordovician period, when shell-forming sea animals flourished,
is well represented in both surface and subsurface formations. In the
vast ocean covering this region lived sponges, corals, moss animals,
brachiopods, sea lilies, chambered shells (cephalopods), primitive forms
of snails (gastropods), clams (pelecyrods), and buglike creatures, the
trilobites. Tiny gastropods, Cyclora minuta, were so numerous that
their fossil remains in the limestone have been mined as phosphate
rock. The lime and phosphorus of these shell-forming sea creatures
account in large measure for the fertility of Kentucky soils, especially
of the Bluegrass region, with which the Ordovician deposits are practically
co-extensive. The limestone and shales of this area are estimated
to be half a billion years old.
Through the massive limestone of Central Kentucky the Kentucky
River and its tributary, the Dix River, have cut deep gorges. Gently
rolling hills, occasional caverns, sinkholes, and countless springs are
phenomena resulting from erosion and internal water drainage.
At the beginning of Silurian time following the Ordovician age and
lasting a relatively brief twenty-five million years an ancient sea invaded
Kentucky from the Gulf of Mexico, permitting the immigration
of southern types of corals, crinoids (a class to which sea lilies belong),
and simple shellfish. About the middle of that age the waters
of the North Atlantic invaded the area, bringing many new forms.
In this complex of older life forms and newer developing ones are
found chain corals, honeycomb corals, cup corals, and organ-pipe corals
all named for peculiarities of shape, crinoids of many kinds, and
new species of shellfish. Trilobites were on the decline and disappeared
during the Pennsylvanian period.
The limestones of the Devonian, the next period, have preserved
about the same number of genera of corals, crinoids, and brachiopods
as are found in the Silurian. Cephalopods, with chambered shells, and
the mosslike and branching bryozoans are common. During this age,
which is marked by the rise of fishes and the appearance of amphibians,
there were sharks in Kentucky's waters; the ostracoderm,
a great fishlike creature, has left its remains. The oldest known land
flora also made its appearance on Devonian lands.
Considerably more than a fourth of Kentucky is underlaid by limestones,
shales, and sandstones of the Mississippian system. These
formations date from the beginning of the Carboniferous period,
which was to last somewhat over one hundred million years and exhibit
a flora of primitive scale trees, tree ferns, huge mosses, early
forms of flowering plants and, from this world of luxuriant vegetation,
the development of amphibians. Among the new creatures was
a genus called Archimedes, so named from its resemblance to the
screw of Archimedes. From the stem of this living screw, lacy curtains
extended, inhabited by thousands of microscopic bryozoan animals.
Fossils of the decorative Pentremites, the so-called fossil "hickory
nut," are found in abundance in some of the limestones in the
Pennyrile. Fossil sharks' teeth are the only evidence of vertebrates
of the period in Kentucky.
The limestones of the Mississippian period are responsible for the
odd feature of the landscape known as the Land of Ten Thousand
Sinks, with its extensive subterranean drainage. From the evidence
of existing river channels, cutting deeply through Mississippian strata
and subsequently filled with sandstone of the Pennsylvanian period, it
may be deduced that the Mississippian period witnessed a vast uplift
followed by a subsidence of the region.
The Pennsylvanian, or great coal age, is represented in the surface
formations of both the eastern and western coal fields of Kentucky.
These are sandstones, shales, occasional limestones, and numerous coal
seams. The lower sandstone outcrops along the outer edges of both
areas and has been sculptured by erosion into natural bridges, rock
castles, and water falls. Natural Bridge and Cumberland Falls are
notable among these. The Pennsylvanian shales in places bear the
imprint of the abundant plant life of the period. The shale roofs of
some of the coal mines are decorated with fossil tree trunks, showing
bark patterns and the traces of leaves. The sandstones also exhibit
the Lepidodendrons, Sigillaria, and other coal-forming trees, a flora
that vanished with the end of the Carboniferous period in its last
stage, the Permian. The animal fossils of the Pennsylvanian resembles
those of the Mississipian.
The close of the Paleozoic era, an eon of some 350 million years,
saw the rise of the ancient lofty Appalachian Mountains, of which the
ancestral Pine and Cumberland Mountains formed western outposts.
So far as Kentucky is concerned, there is a hiatus in the rock record,
extending from the end of the Paleozoic to the last period of the
Mesozoic. Triassic, Jurassic, and Commanchean rocks do not occur,
and those of the Cretaceous period show no marine fossils. Dinosaurs
or other spectacular creatures of this age of reptiles may have wandered
into the area during this time, but neither fossil remains nor
footprints have been found.
The Tertiary period, which introduced the age of mammals, found
the Purchase Region of coastal plain bordering an enlarged Gulf of
Mexico. Cassias, figs, maples, laurels, oaks, walnuts, willows, papaws,
gums, yews, hickories, and other contemporary flora thrived. In
these forests roamed the giant ground sloth, giant wolves, and other
The Quaternary includes the quite recent glacial period, traces of
which (in the Illinoian stage) are found ten to twenty miles south of
the Ohio, from the Big Sandy to the Kentucky Rivers. Louisville, in
part, and other cities of the northern border are built on a glacial Ohio
River outwash of sand and gravel. Big Bone Lick in Boone County
is named from the leg bones of mammoth and mastodon that mired
down at this place. It is possible that cave dwellers lived and hunted
at the edge of the slowly retreating ice cap. In any event, within a
few thousand years man made his appearance in the forests of this
region and the modern era was ushered in.
There are geological and paleontological collections in the University
of Kentucky at Lexington, in the Louisville Free Public Library,
and in many other Kentucky institutions of higher learning.
THE MANY mounds, forts, cave shelters, and burial fields in Kentucky
show that the prehistoric population must have been fairly
large for savages. It was diverse in culture and probably had many
Aboriginal remains are found in every county in the State. The
eastern mound area covers the heart of the Bluegrass region and extends
northeastward to the Ohio River. This fertile and well watered
land was heavily timbered in prehistoric times. It is characterized
archeologically by the great number and large size of its Indian mounds,
many of them associated with village sites, and by other structures
which have been called forts. The popular notion that the mound
builders were a race differing from the American Indians has no facts
to support it. They were doubtless the ancestors of some of the historic
The mounds were originally of various shapes and sizes but have
been altered through weathering and the changes caused by agriculture.
This is especially true of mounds which were not high and stand in
cultivated fields. With each plowing the earth has been removed from
the top and spread out at the base until the original shape has been
destroyed. Often the surface for many yards around is strewn with
flints, bones, and broken pottery upturned by plow and harrow.
Some of these mounds were constructed centuries ago; others are
quite recent. Certain tribes of modern Indians were building mounds
when the first whites arrived. Sometimes intrusive burials indicate
that later tribes used the mounds after the original builders had disappeared.
All mounds were not used for the same purpose they were
erected for ceremonial or sacrificial purposes, or for the burial of the
dead; and some perhaps represent nothing more than the dirt roof of
a lodge or the gradual accumulation of camp refuse.
The remains of camp and village sites, usually found in the vicinity
of mounds, are often extensive and show long occupancy. The features
by which a site is recognized is the sporadic occurrence of broken
bits of flint artifacts, potsherds, or bone fragments scattered over the
surface. The midden of a village is usually one foot deep, though it
may attain a depth of several feet.
The life of the mound builders may be reconstructed, to some extent,
from the artifacts found in the mounds. Agriculture is shown in the
hoes; fishing in the fishhooks and fish scales; hunting in the bones of
many a beast; sports in the almost obliterated race tracks and playgrounds;
child-like vanities in the personal ornaments; industry in
the laboriously fashioned tools and in the carved pipes and gorgets.
The rock shelter area extends throughout the knobs and eastern
mountains and swings south and west of the Bluegrass to portions of
west central Kentucky having a similar topography. In this area
erosion has formed many vertical cliffs from 50 to 200 feet high in
which are rock shelters, known locally as rock houses. Numbers of
these shelters are several hundred feet long and from 30 to 60 feet
high, and many are quite dry. Into these, primitive man carried wood
for fire and animals for food. Ashes and bones have accumulated in
layers sometimes 10 feet deep. Each layer contains a record of contemporary
life and is well preserved, for no water has entered the
shelters and the dry ashes have prevented bacterial action. Bone,
shell, gourd shards, textiles and leather have been found in excellent
Not all the sites are of the same age, nor do all have the same amount
of accumulated debris; but the series of artifacts, burial customs, and
apparent steps in the development of culture are so nearly identical
in the shelters investigated that it is reasonable to suppose that all
have a similar story of occupancy.
The western Kentucky rock shelter area embraces the headwaters
of the Green River and extends northward to the Ohio River. The
cliff shelters found here differ from those in the cliff dwelling area.
They are merely overhanging rock strata or ledges of sandstone or
limestone, offering protection over a relatively small space. The cliffs
are usually not more than 30 feet high, and the actual shelters, while
numerous, are individually small no larger than would meet the need
of a single family. The shelters were often so small that the ashes had
to be periodically swept out, and their accumulation formed a talus at
the foot of the cliff below, which grew deeper and broader as occupancy
continued. Burials of men, women, and children were often made in
the ashes and debris swept from the shelter. There is no known evidence
of cremation. Bone and shell were used extensively; a few slate
pendants, shell and bone beads, and other ornaments have been found.
The distinguishing feature of the sandstone sites is the hominy hole
used for grinding corn. At every site, from one tocents five or six of these
conical holes are found either in the shelter floors or in large sandstone
boulders. A hominy hole is from four to ten inches in diameter
at the top, tapering to perhaps three inches at the bottom and varying
in depth from one to three feet. Associated with the hominy hole is
a bell-shaped pestle, lashed to a staff several feet long, and used pointed
end downward, with which the corn was ground by percussion. A
number of pestles were left in these hominy holes by their users. Crude
hoes, the hominy holes, and pestles suggest a horticultural people.
They are not to be distinguished from the rock shelter dwellers of the
eastern mountains, and their cultural connections are uncertain.
The cliff dwellings were in continuous use from a remote period until
the advent of white men. The lowest ash beds have no pottery of any
kind, no flint implements, and only the crudest forms of hammerstones;
large broken animal bones, mingled with mussel shells, nut
hulls, and fish scales, form a considerable portion of the refuse. Upper
or later levels show gourd shards, grooved axes, and very crude limestone
hoes, indicating the beginning of agriculture. Woven textiles and
moccasins of both textiles and leather have also been found in the
upper layers. Crude potsherds occur only in the top six inches of the
ash, and a few sites have yielded paddle-marked shards. The cliff
dwellers used shells as spoons and scrapers, and made a characteristic
bone awl from the shoulder blade of the deer.
Many burials of women and children occur in the ash beds, but such
burials did not prevent later occupancy of the site. Although dozens
of ash beds have been investigated and scores of bodies of women and
children have been found, there is no evidence of a burial of an adult
male. The question of what was done with deceased adult males may
have been answered by the discovery, in one site in Wolfe County, of
some 57 artifacts associated with the almost entirely burned bones of
what appears to have been an adult male. These bones and artifacts
are preserved, just as found, in the museum of the University of Kentucky.
Future investigation may show that adult males were cremated.
In the southeastern mountain area are many mounds, but they are
not as numerous as in the neighboring central mound area. Here, too,
are rock shelters in which the aboriginal people lived and left artifacts.
Plowed fields have yielded artifacts of flint and other stones and
vestiges of villages may be seen in a few places. The soil was capable
of producing maize abundantly but the roughness of the country doubtless
interfered with settlement.
An area embracing a portion of north central Kentucky includes
evidence of aborigines of unknown cultural affinities. This occupation
is indicated by burial sites containing stone cists of two to six burials,
usually situated on high hill crests. The graves are covered with a
double row of flat stones set on edge and touching each other at the
top. Other stones are then leaned against this first row, and sometimes
an area of 10 feet square is covered with sloping stones.
Along part of the Ohio River in Kentucky are a few larger mounds
associated with village sites, some of which have yielded material of
Fort Ancient culture; this would be expected from its contact with the
Fort Ancient area in Ohio and with the eastern mound area in Kentucky,
to the eastward. The Fort Ancient culture is probably Siouan.
Kentucky caves were inhabited by prehistoric man, but how far he
dates back in time is, at present, an unanswerable question. The term
"cave dwellers" is used to designate those ancient people whose remains
are found in caves and who apparently lived in them. Primitive man
could hardly have found a more satisfactory type of shelter. The part
of the cave near the mouth was commonly occupied, and caves which
had good rooms close to the entrance were favorite dwelling places.
The inhabitants also used the most remote passages, for in the deepest
and most inaccessible chambers they left evidence of their presence.
The caves, like the mounds, represent more than one group of people.
After one group deserted them, a new group would move in.
The reason for burial in the caves may have been religious belief,
or long-established custom, or a desire to protect the graves, or merely
the fact that the floor of the cave was never hard or frozen, and was
easy to excavate when the outside ground was not. Whatever the
reason, its existence is fortunate, for cave burials have proven conducive
to preservation of remains, and thus they give illuminating
glimpses of ancient life.
Ash beds are found on the floors of caves, but it is often difficult
to tell whether they were made by ancient residents or modern hunters.
On the walls are marks and decorations; since weathering is very slow
in such protected places, these marks may be ten or a thousand years
old. Hidden in crevices are pots containing paint or pigment, but little
is known of the men who left them there.
South and west of the western Kentucky rock shelter area, along
Green River in its passage through McLean, Muhlenberg, Ohio, and
Butler Counties, is the Shell Mound area. It is distinguished by great
shell heaps near the riverbanks, consisting of gastropod and mussel
shells mixed with animal bones and camp refuse. The size and number
of these mounds suggest a large population or a long-continued occupation.
The shell beds are often ten to twelve feet deep, and many of
them are several acres in extent. The most important archeological
investigation within this area was made by C. B. Moore at Indian
Knoll, where many skeletons and certain characteristic artifacts were
discovered. The circular pattern of graves at this site is unlike that in
the surrounding territory. The artifacts indicate a people living
wholly by fishing and hunting. There is no evidence of agriculture
and, beyond the mounds themselves, no evidence of permanent occupation.
It is possible that these shell mounds are evidences of the oldest
human occupancy in this area of the State.
The stone grave area, lying between the Tennessee and Green Rivers,
is very rich in prehistoric remains earth mounds, large village sites,
and cemeteries. Stone grave cemeteries are fairly numerous, and some
are fairly extensive. A stone grave is made by setting six to eight
stones on edge, carefully joined to form a box; in this the body in the
flesh is buried at full length. Usually the stone graves were lined at
the bottom and covered at the top with flat stones. At one site they
were found under mounds which contained crematory pits and ossuaries
of a group of unknown culture.
These stone graves are generally devoid of artifacts, although sometimes
they contain small mortuary vessels of pottery. At the head
or foot of the individual within the stone grave are extended burials
and many burials of bones. Thus on such sites there is evidence of at
least two methods of disposal of the dead. Because of a dearth of artifacts
the cultural connections of these people are uncertain.
Within this area, built upon a stone grave cemetery seemingly at a
later date, a village site has been found and a group of sixty or more
mounds, many of which have proven to be crematory pits for burning
the bones of the dead. Remains show the practice of cremation,
strongly suggestive of some members of the Siouan linguistic stock, and
collections of jumbled human bones are found, often within the same
mound. Such ossuaries often contain the bones of hundreds of individuals,
packed into small, stone, chimney-like vaults, similar to the
crematory pits. Here again were two methods of dealing with the
dead. Artifacts found in this association are few, the most characteristic being pottery "elbow" pipes. These pipes and burial customs
are similar to those described by Gerard Fowke in Missouri.
The third culture within this area has been called the Gordon or
Tennessee-Cumberland aspect, first described by Meyer in the Cumberland
River region of Tennessee. This culture is distinguished by
the erection of earth mounds over the sites of buildings or temples.
The remains of these buildings, which were made of wattlework between
posts driven into the earth, show that they were destroyed by
fire and covered with earth while the fire was yet burning. Over this
a new structure was erected which, in time, went the way of the first.
Generally the mounds show several levels of occupation. Remains
of maize are found in the temple sites, indicating that the people of
this culture practiced agriculture. They made pottery, producing distinct
and attractive types, many of which show outside influence. One
characteristic form is a textile-marked vessel of large size, commonly
called a salt pan. Shards of such vessels are found in great number
in the dirt forming the mounds that cover the sites of burned buildings.
While, in places, these earth mounds are found near the stone grave
cemeteries, not all are so situated. Some of the larger sites show fulllength
burials in the flesh, accompanied by a variety of artifacts. The
occupancy of this area by so many different peoples complicates the
problem of identification; on the other hand it has increased the
stratification of artifacts and culture customs.
The Jesuit Relations recounts that the Five Nations, or Iroquois, in
New York, got guns from the Dutch about 1630 and turned on their
less advanced neighbors to the north, south, and west with such fury
that by 1690 the present States of Ohio and Kentucky were depopulated,
their inhabitants having fled across the Mississippi River or
to the southeast.
About 1645-1650 a group of these fugitives from the upper Ohio
began to cross the present State by the Athiomiowee, or Warriors'
Trace. They were overtaken by their Iroquoian foes, but fortified
themselves and drove them back. In Virginia they defeated Colonel
Howard Hill and killed the chief of his Indian allies, Totopottomoi, a
successor to Powhatan. The Virginia records call these fugitives
Rickohockans and later Occaneechos. Others of these same people
turned down the Ohio called the Acansea River on early French maps
and the Mississippi, and finally settled on the Missouri and Arkansas
Between 1715 and 1725 a number of the Piqua band of Shawnee
returned from the South and built a town, Eskippakithiki, in the southeastern
part of Clark County. There they remained for some time
until they moved to Ohio and took sides with the French in the campaign
In 1736 the French took a census of the Ohio Valley and credited
the Shawnees, in the Carolina region, with a strength of 200 men.
This was probably only for the Shawnee town of Eskippakithiki, for
the Van Keulen map of 1720 shows a trail from the present Illinois,
crossing the Ohio near the mouth of the Kentucky River, and passing
by the site of Eskippakithiki, to Cumberland Gap, which is labeled,
"The route which the French take to trade with Carolina."
Peter Chartier, a half-breed Shawnee trader, the son of Martin
Chartier, was in Kentucky in the late seventeenth century. He had
his chief post at the Shawnee town on the Pequea Creek in Pennsylvania,
and probably reached out for trade with his Shawnee kinsmen
in Kentucky. In 1745, he was reprimanded by the Governor for selling
liquor to the Indians, and accepted a captaincy in the French
service and fled down the Ohio River, taking with him 400 Shawnee
warriors and their families. Having robbed all the English traders
they met, they went to their kinsmen at Eskippakithiki, where they
stopped until the fall of 1747. After making trouble in the South for
several years, they drifted back, stopping at the present Shawneetown,
Illinois, until they were allowed to return to their British allegiance
and their old homes. Chartier fled to the French in Illinois.
About 1729 Shawnees, Delawares, and Mingoes built Lower Shawneetown
on the western side of the Scioto River at its mouth. A
suburb of this backwoods capital was built on the Kentucky side, now
Fullerton, and some trading posts were established there by Colonel
George Croghan, and others. This town and its Kentucky suburb
were deserted just before the French and Indian War. Eskippakithiki
and Lower Shawneetown were the last Indian settlements in Kentucky.
This information was Compiled and Written by the Federal Writers' Project
of the Work Projects Administration for the State of Kentucky - 1939