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KENTUCKY
A GUIDE TO THE BLUEGRASS STATE - 1939

HISTORY (written in 1939)

KENTUCKY was the first State to be organized west of the Appalachian Mountains. At the mountain barrier the westward movement of American immigrants had come to its first halt, but there was a lively curiosity about the land beyond to the west. In 1642 a company of English adventurers, Walter Austin, Rice Hoe, Joseph Johnson, and Walter Chiles, petitioned for "leave and encouragement to explore westward." Whatever their intentions may have been, they failed to use their grant. Twenty-seven years passed before the subject of western exploration was again discussed in the Virginia Assembly. A permit was granted in 1669 to John Lederer, a German adventurer and personal friend of Governor Berkeley, to explore westward. He made three trips into the Blue Ridge, passing through the neighborhood of what is now Lynchburg, but accomplished little. In 1671, Colonel Abram Wood, commandant of Fort Henry at Petersburg, Virginia, sent Thomas Batts and Robert Fallam into the western ranges to find the "ebbing and flowing of the rivers on the other side of the mountains in order to reach the South Seas." This expedition reached the Ohio Valley, but the English were not much impressed with the findings. Two or three years later, however, they discovered that the French were active in the western country beyond the mountains. The English became intensely interested when the French, by virtue of the Mississippi voyages of Jolliet and Marquette in 1673 and of La Salle in 1682, claimed all the region drained by the Mississippi River and its tributaries. James Needham and Gabriel Arthur were sent into the West in 1673. Needham was killed, but Arthur made his way into northeastern Kentucky with the Indians and may have been the first Englishman on Kentucky soil. English interest in the trans-Allegheny region lagged for 70 years and was confined to the cis-Allegheny frontier.

In 1742 John Peter Salley (or Sailing) led a party from Virginia to the banks of the Ohio River. One or two of the men were killed, and Salley was captured by French adventurers and sent to prison, first at Natchez, and later in Cuba and France, He finally returned to Charleston, South Carolina. Salley's adventure stimulated a fresh interest on the part of the English in the Ohio Valley. Seven years later Pierre Joseph Celoron, Sieur de Blainville, set out from Quebec to lay claim for the French to all the land between Quebec and New Orleans. The news of this expedition aroused the English whose Colonial officials took steps to make counter claims. Land companies were organized and plans were made at once to send surveyors beyond the mountains to lay out claims to large tracts of lands for prospective settlements. The Loyal Land Company at Charlottesville, Virginia, secured a grant of 800,000 acres and dispatched an expedition westward under Dr. Thomas Walker in 1750. The party left Charlottesville on March 6 and came to a wide pass in the Allegheny wall on April 13. Walker refers to the pass in his journal as "Cave Gap" through which his party passed on their way to within a short distance from what is now Barboursville. Here the expedition established its base for operations, explored the eastern mountain range of Kentucky for several weeks, and left the country on June 20, 1750.

The next year Christopher Gist, a frontier scout and explorer, was employed by the Ohio Land Company to visit the West. He traveled through passes in the neighborhood of modern Pittsburgh and made his way through Indian trading villages down the Ohio River to the Kentucky country. In March 1751 he visited Big Bone Lick, and headed for the great Falls of the Ohio River, now Louisville, but friendly Shawnee Indians warned him of hostile tribes encamped about the falls. Gist turned back, passing over the mountains to North Carolina.

The settlement line along the Virginia and Carolina frontiers grew more and more populous from 1751 to 1786. The settlers were anxious to move westward to new and more fertile lands, but the country was involved in the French and Indian War from 1755 to 1763 and it was dangerous. It appeared for a time that the land which is now Kentucky would fall to the French, but the tide turned at last, and on February 10, 1763, the Treaty of Paris was signed. The English got possession of the land east of the Mississippi River, but to the disappointment of the frontiersmen, King George III issued the proclamation of 1763 forbidding settlers to move beyond the line of watershed in the Appalachian highlands.

Despite the King's proclamation, scouts of one kind or another brought back from the West thrilling stories of the new country. Mrs. Inglis, with a German woman companion, came into the northern Kentucky country as captives of the Indians, from whom they escaped almost miraculously. The so-called silver miners, led by John Swift, were in Kentucky from time to time during the 1760's. A legend prevails to this day that Swift and his companions mined large quantities of silver in Kentucky and many communities yet claim the site of the Swift silver mines.

The "long hunters," so called because of long periods of time spent by men of the eastern frontier settlements in hunting across the mountains, began to invade the Kentucky country. Among them were John Raines, Uriah Stone, John Finley, Henry Skaggs, and Daniel Boone. Boone's fame has grown with the passage of time until he has become, in legend at least, the chief figure of the early Kentucky frontier days. His life is symbolical of the western movement in American history. Born in Berks County, Pennsylvania, in 1734, Boone had moved with his parents in 1750 to the western part of North Carolina, on the Yadkin. He was restless by nature, and in 1766 entered upon a career of exploration that first took him as far south as St. Augustine, Florida. Returning to North Carolina, he was influenced to go West by John Finley's stories of Kentucky, and crossed through Cumberland Gap. But instead of reaching the Bluegrass country he spent the winter of 1767 in the tablelands of eastern Kentucky, and returned to North Carolina. In May 1769, Boone, Finley, and several companions started for Kentucky. They spent the summer hunting in the cane lands and before they realized it winter was upon them. When their stores were broken into by the Indians in December and a number of horses were stolen, the party broke up, and Finley with three of his companions returned to North Carolina.

Meanwhile, Squire Boone, a brother of Daniel, and a companion had come out to Kentucky. The two brothers hunted for a year, and wandered over the country from the Big Sandy to the Cumberland Rivers. It was during these years, 1769-1771, that Daniel Boone acquired information about the Kentucky country that later made him a valuable scout.

The next whites to appear in Kentucky were the land surveyors sent out by land companies and speculators. Captain Thomas Bullitt led one such party to the Falls of the Ohio River in June 1773, where he made a survey of the lands where Louisville now stands. At the same time the McAfee brothers were surveying lands up the Kentucky River. James Harrod led another surveying party in 1774 to the neighborhood now known as Harrodsburg.

No settlement had been established as yet, but immediately after the Indian disturbances had been settled by the Dunmore War, speculators laid plans to claim vast surveys in the West. The best known of these speculative ventures was the Transylvania Land Company, organized in 1773 as the Richard Henderson Company, under the leadership of Judge Richard Henderson of North Carolina. He and his associates, Colonel Nathaniel Hart and others, made a treaty with the Cherokee Indians on March 17, 1775, at Sycamore Shoals on the Watauga River, granting the whites possession of all the land south of the Ohio River, north of the Cumberland River, and west of the Appalachian ranges. Henderson also purchased a tract that reached from Cumberland Gap to the south bank of the Cumberland River. Daniel Boone and thirty companions were dispatched immediately to Kentucky to blaze the trail, and locate suitable river fording places. Henderson and his party followed and in May 1775, the settlement at Boonesboro was begun.

Harrodsburg, of Virginia origin, was also settled in early 1775. The founding of St. Asaph Station and Boiling Springs followed immediately. Judge Henderson issued a call on May 23, 1775, to all these forts to send delegates to Boonesboro for the purpose of making laws to govern the settlements. The nine laws passed by this meeting are sometimes called the first legislative acts passed by a Kentucky Legislature, though this is not strictly true.

Rivalry soon developed between the Virginia and North Carolina settlements. George Rogers Clark, a young Virginian who had recently come West, called a meeting at Harrodsburg on June 6, 1776, of all the Kentucky forts to discuss a course of procedure. Clark and John Gabriel Jones were selected as delegates to go to Williamsburg and present their problems to the Virginia Legislature, but they arrived too late to go before the assembly. Clark, however, was able to secure an appropriation of 500 pounds of gunpowder for the protection of Kentucky.

Clark and Jones learned, while in Williamsburg, that Richard Henderson and his associates were attempting to secure recognition of their colony. The Harrodsburg delegates, thereupon, decided to remain in Virginia until the assembly convened in the fall in order that they might protect the rights of the Harrodsburg settlers. It was largely through their influence that the Transylvania Land Company was declared illegal, and that Kentucky County was created out of Fincastle County on December 6, 1776. The name Kentucky was first used officially by Virginia at this time.

When Clark and Jones returned to Kentucky they found many settlers moving into the West. The Indians, however, were a constant menace, and Clark realized that if the Kentucky settlements were to survive, a military drive would have to be made beyond the Ohio. He therefore sought the permission and assistance of the Virginia Assembly and Governor Patrick Henry to attack the Indians and the English in their stronghold beyond the Ohio River, and won approval of his plans in December 1777. Starting out from Virginia, Clark went to the Redstone settlement near Pittsburgh to recruit troops for his western expedition. At the same time he dispatched an agent to the Watauga settlements in Tennessee for the same purpose. Both Clark and his agent were disappointed in the number of troops secured. Instead of 350, which he wanted, he got less than 200, and many of them objected to fighting beyond the Ohio River. Clark, nevertheless, proceeded to Corn Island in the Ohio, opposite the site on which Louisville stands today.

The expedition started secretly in June 1778 for Kaskaskia, and took the town by surprise. This successful coup was followed by a similar one against the town of Cahokia. In the fall Governor Hamilton arrived at Vincennes, the main French post in the northwest, with a large force of British and Indian troops, and the British flag was raised over the village. Hamilton thought he was perfectly safe in Vincennes, but in February 1779 Clark and his troops took Vincennes by surprise and captured the fort. The Indians were thus driven back temporarily from Kentucky and the American frontier was extended to the Mississippi River.

In the meantime Kentuckians were having Indian troubles at home. Daniel Boone and his salt-making companions were captured at the Lower Blue Licks February 7, 1778, and carried away to Detroit where he was adopted as a son of Chief Black Fish. He lived happily with the Indians for a time, but when he heard that the French-Canadian, De Quindre, was plotting with the Indians to attack Boonesboro, he returned to that settlement to prepare for the attack. The Indians under the command of De Quindre appeared before the fort and demanded its surrender; the demand was refused and the attack repulsed. The Kentucky settlements were saved.

The British and Indians made a second major attack in 1782, striking at Bryan Station on August 15. Four days later the Kentuckians pursued them to the banks of the Licking River. On a limestone road in a ravine at Blue Licks occurred one of the bloodiest battles ever fought on the frontier. Though the Americans were defeated, this was the last battle of any significance fought against the Indians on Kentucky soil.

As the Kentucky country becamecents more settled and Indian skirmishes became less frequent, the settlers grew tired of living in stockades. County organizations and taverns began to spring up. The Falls of the Ohio, which became Louisville, was surveyed in 1773 by Thomas Bullitt; Boonesboro was incorporated in 1779; Washington and Maysville soon followed; the plan for the town of Lexington was adopted in 1781. The Kentuckians soon began to consider separating their territory from Virginia and becoming one of the States of the confederation. They first met in Danville December 27, 1784, to discuss the matter formally; ten conventions were called before an independent State was created. (In the meantime the Constitution of the United States was written and ratified.) Many reasons for a separation were discussed in these conventions: objections to Virginia taxes, inability of Kentuckians to adapt Virginia laws to local situations, the refusal of Virginia to permit Kentuckians to pursue Indians beyond the Ohio River, and the fact that all cases appealed to higher courts had to be carried back to Richmond for trial. Some people demanded that Kentucky become simply an independent State and have nothing to do with the Union, some wished to become a part of the Spanish Empire, some to remain a part of Virginia. Others demanded recognition as one of the States of the Union. The long, bitter struggle finally came to an end in the framing of a constitution at Danville in April 1792. On June 1, 1792, Kentucky was admitted as a State into the Union. The new government was inaugurated June 4, 1792, in Lexington.

General Isaac Shelby, by common consent, was chosen to be the first Governor. The Sheaf of Wheat Tavern in Lexington became temporarily the statehouse, and the legislature met for its first session in a capitol building of logs. Its first task was to select a permanent site for the State Capital; December 8, 1792, Frankfort was so designated. Kentucky's first constitution was modeled to some extent on the National Constitution. All white males over 21 years of age were permitted to vote, the Governor and senators were elected by an electoral college, slavery was protected, and a bill of rights of 27 divisions was attached. It failed, however, to provide for a public school system.

In 1799 a second constitutional convention was held, and a new constitution was adopted. It created the office of Lieutenant Governor, and made all State officers subject to direct election by the people. An interesting provision prohibited a minister of the Gospel from serving in the capacity of a lawmaker. Slave owners were afraid that ministers would attempt to pass abolition legislation.

Kentucky became deeply involved in the famous French conspiracy at this time. When Charles Edmund Genet landed at Charleston, South Carolina, on April 8, 1793, he dispatched his agents to the western country. George Rogers Clark was given a high commission in the French Army of the Mississippi Valley. Liberty poles were erected in many towns and Kentuckians hailed one another as "Citizen." Although the conspiracy was put down, the citizens of the State continued to favor the French. In 1798 they protested against the Alien and Sedition laws passed by the Adams government in Philadelphia. John Breckinridge, of Kentucky, in co-operation with Thomas Jefferson, drafted the famous series of resolutions setting forth what they believed to be State rights. There was much public debate on the question and popular opinion became overwhelmingly Republican. George Nicholas, of Lexington, a keen constitutionalist, vigorously attacked the Federalist laws. Henry Clay delivered his first significant speech in Kentucky politics on the question of States' rights. But when Jefferson was elected President of the United States, Kentuckians forgot their attack upon the National Constitution.

Between 1800-1804, the issue of trade rights on the lower Mississippi River was settled by the Louisiana Purchase. Kentuckians had lived in constant fear that the temperamental Spanish officials would remove the American right of deposit, and that Kentuckians would be unable to sell their products southward. In 1802 their fears were realized, and the Spanish canceled the right of deposit. The situation was relieved, however, when Louisiana passed into American hands in 1803.

Hardly had Kentuckians ceased rejoicing than they were involved, innocently, in another national scandal. Aaron Burr, who had killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel, came to the State and plotted much of his proposed independent republic in the Southwest. Many prominent Kentuckians became involved in the plot. Burr was twice brought to trial in the Federal Court of the District of Kentucky, but was released both times as not guilty of the charges of treason preferred against him.

When the excitement about the Burr conspiracy had somewhat subsided, Kentucky became agitated over the possibility of a war with England. News reached Kentucky in 1807 of the Chesapeake and Leopard affair. Public opinion in favor of war ran high, and the local press cried out loudly against England. The State legislature passed laws forbidding the use of certain British laws and citation of British cases in court. Realizing the temper of the public mind, the politicians who sought office began to agitate the question of expanding American territory. Henry Clay and Richard M. Johnson were elected to Congress on an expansionist platform. Henry Clay even went so far as to advocate the annexation of Canada. By 1811 Kentuckians virtually demanded war with England. When war was formally declared in 1812, Kentuckians advanced rapidly to the area about Detroit. A large part of the American forces at the Battle of the Thames consisted of Kentucky militiamen under the command of Gov. Isaac Shelby and Congressman Richard Mentor Johnson. When Gen. Andrew Jackson defeated the British forces at New Orleans on January 8, 1815, 5,500 Kentuckians were present, under Generals Thomas and Adair.

After the War of 1812 Kentuckians turned their attention to more constructive interests. Western manufactures were increasing because British goods were off the American market from 1805-1815. Kentucky hemp, cloth and rope manufacturers especially enjoyed a flourishing trade, and butchers, distillers, salt-makers, and cabinetmakers were prosperous. Land prices advanced and Louisville, Lexington, Maysville, Covington, Carrollton, Paducah, Henderson, and Hickman were rapidly becoming busy trade centers. River boatmen began to clamor for a canal around the Falls of the Ohio at Louisville. A company was chartered by the State legislature in 1805 for this purpose, but the work was delayed and the canal was not completed until 1829. The first successful steamboat trip on western waters was taken by the New Orleans to New Orleans in 1811 by Captain Nicholas Roosevelt. About 1815 a steamboat, the Enterprise, came up the river from New Orleans and thereafter the steamboat business began to thrive. By 1860 Kentuckians were supplying the Southern States with the most of their manufactured goods.

With prosperous conditions, there came a demand for improved banking facilities. Kentucky at the time had a system of State banks to which was entrusted the responsibility of issuing currency, but the amount issued was insufficient for the successful conduct of business.

By 1818 the demand for an increase in the number of banks was so great that the Bank of Kentucky was expanded to include more than 40 branches. Each branch bank was given the authority to issue its own currency. In a short time, however, the lack of control over the volume of currency issued led to general financial confusion, and to depreciation in value of currency. The situation became so acute that in December 1819, the general assembly passed a law granting a stay of execution for 60 days. This relief was not sufficient to stem the tide. In February 1820, all debtors were given a moratorium of two years. A test case was carried to the courts, and the circuit court of Bourbon County declared the law unconstitutional. Later, the State court of appeals upheld the local court and the legislature declared that the courts were thwarting the will of the people. A struggle between the legislative and the judicial branches of the government continued until 1829, when the court was finally absolved of all the charges made against it.

The legislative-judicial struggle over the banking question created two political parties in Kentucky. In the Presidential campaign of 1824 one of the four candidates in the field was Henry Clay of Kentucky, who was defeated; but, as Speaker of the House of Representatives, he was a powerful factor in deciding whom Congress should select for the next President. The Kentucky General Assembly had instructed Clay to support Jackson, but he disobeyed instructions and supported John Quincy Adams. This brought about another break in Kentucky politics ; the Clay supporters became Whigs and the Jackson supporters became Democrats. This alignment prevailed until 1860. The institution of slavery was a political issue in Kentucky from 1792 to 1865. Slavery had been transferred to the West as a part of the social organization of the State, but it was not an economic success. Lack of transportation facilities made large-scale tobacco culture unprofitable in the early years; and the cultivation of hemp and grain and the breeding of livestock were not adapted to slave labor. After 1820 many Kentucky farmers moved to the Cotton Belt where they could employ their slaves with profit. Others sold off their surplus supply of Negroes to the southern planters. When the War between the States broke out, Kentucky had approximately 225,000 slaves. The State was divided into two distinct economic units. The Bluegrass counties, in which slavery existed to the greatest extent, quite generally favored the southern economic system. The poorer counties and the larger urban centers were quite generally opposed to slavery.

Originally the chief criticism of slavery came from the churches and the clergy. The slaveholders were constantly on guard against this opposition, and since they exercised more political influence than the clergy, they succeeded in building a wall of protective legislation about the system of slave labor. Between 1820 and 1835 the American Colonization Society, of which Henry Clay was president, made considerable headway in Kentucky. At the same time outside abolitionists began to attack Kentucky slavery; this caused much hard feeling in the State, and probably did more immediate harm than good. The institution of slavery also found severe critics within the State. Cassius M. Clay, a native of Madison County, and publisher of the True American, a newspaper in Lexington, condemned Kentucky slavery very bitterly.

Other live issues were at stake in antebellum days. When Henry Clay died in 1852 he left behind him the wreckage of the Whig party, and no leader to take his place. Local politicians began to inject into their speeches the questions of religion and nationalities. Catholics were condemned along with all foreigners. The Sons of America, or Native Americans as they called themselves, attempted to keep possession of the reins of local government. A riot in Louisville in 1855, known as "Bloody Monday," resulted.

In the Presidential election of 1860 Kentucky voted against its two native sons, Abraham Lincoln and John C. Breckinridge, and gave its majority support to John Bell of Tennessee, who proposed to save the Union at any cost. Unlike her southern neighbors the State refused to be stampeded into secession. Although Kentucky was a slave State and considered itself Southern, it leaned toward the idea of maintaining the Union intact. Commerce and agriculture had become the chief interests. When war broke out, both sides looked upon Kentucky as a valuable prize, and both sides disregarded its neutrality. During the early part of 1862 western Kentucky was the scene of most important operations between Northern troops under the command of Grant, McClellan, and Thomas, and the Southern troops under the command of Johnston, Polk, Buckner, Crittenden, and Zollicoffer. Union victory at Mill Springs, where Zollicoffer was killed January 19, opened the way into Eastern Tennessee. In 1863 the Confederates under Braxton Bragg and Kirby Smith made a drive into central Kentucky. Bragg received the surrender of the garrison at Munfordville on September 17. He then moved northeastward through Bardstown, and at Perryville stumbled into one wing of the Union command under General Don Carlos Buell. Here on October 8 was fought the battle of Perryville, the bloodiest encounter in Kentucky history. The result was a draw. Bragg retreated, leaving Buell in possession of the field. This marked the end of any serious attempt by the Confederates to gain possession of Kentucky.

Guerilla warfare was carried on in many sections of Kentucky. The famous bushwhacker, Quantrill of Missouri, transferred his activities to Kentucky and kept local communities in a state of excitement. So vicious did this guerilla warfare become that Governor Bramlette was compelled to organize a home guard for the protection of local communities. When peace came in 1865 Kentucky firmly believed that it would resume its peaceful pursuit of developing agriculture and industry, but such was not to be the case. The carpetbaggers realized that the Negroes, many of whom were concentrated in Louisville in the Federal camps, offered a good opportunity for political advantage. Farmers were frightened into believing that they would be completely robbed of labor. Pamphlets were issued inviting foreigners to come to the State. Even Chinese coolies were sought as a solution to the labor problem. The State refused to ratify the thirteenth and fourteenth amendments. By 1871 conditions had become more or less normal; Kentuckians gradually forgot the war and turned to the problems of industry, agriculture, politics and temperance.

The lower South, which had been Kentucky's most important market, had been depleted by the war. Louisville merchants were the first to realize the situation, and sent ex-Confederate soldiers as salesmen into the South to help re-establish the crossroads stores. These drummers were instructed to sell goods at all cost. Wholesale houses were generous in their credit to southern merchants. They not only thoroughly canvassed the South, but Louisville financiers backed the extension of the L. & N. R.R. into the South. Consequently Kentuckians soon recovered much of the trade which they had lost in the war, and the State's industry once again became an important factor in the economic development of the South.

Agriculture presented a more difficult problem. Many Kentucky farmers depended upon a single cash crop, tobacco, and with each succeeding panic following 1865, Kentucky tobacco farmers, like southern cotton farmers, became virtually bankrupt. This difficulty led to the organization of various farmers' movements granger organizations, the Farmers' Alliance, and finally the Populist party. The Populists demanded tariff reforms, regulation of transportation agencies, establishment of agricultural schools, a more satisfactory distribution of the national medium of exchange, more reasonable farm credits, higher agricultural prices, and the framing of a new State constitution in 1890. This constitution, in effect today, reflects the philosophy of the Kentucky Populist party of 1890.

Agricultural issues in the State were not all settled peacefully. From 1907 to 1909 there raged in the dark tobacco, belt a "night-riders" war which resulted in many fatalities. The reign of general lawlessness prevailed in the State for more than a year, until it was ended by the State militia, called out by the Governor. Agrarian troubles were largely back of bitter partisan politics that prevailed in Kentucky the latter part of the nineteenth century. The gubernatorial election of 1899 was fiercely fought. William Goebel of Covington opposed William Sylvester Taylor, a western Kentuckian, and John Young Brown. When the votes were counted it was found that Taylor had won by a majority of more than 2,000 votes. The supporters of Goebel contested the election. While the legislature was considering the matter, Goebel was shot by an assassin (January 30, 1900). The legislature at once declared Goebel Governor, but he died on February 3. Kentucky was almost in a state of civil war ; for several months it had two Governors and two governments. The Democrats won in the end, and J. C. W. Beckham succeeded the assassinated Goebel as Governor. Several years were required to allay the bitter partisan feeling that was engendered by this affair.

Since 1909 Kentucky has pursued a fairly steady and progressive course, in spite of the fact that Democrats and Republicans have fought each other bitterly and alternated in political power. Kentucky did its part in the World War by furnishing 75,043 men and meeting its quotas in money subscribed. Men were encamped and trained at Fort Thomas, Camp Zachary Taylor, and Camp Knox. The latter was not dismantled after the war and on January 30, 1932, it became a permanent post of the U. S. Army and officially named Fort Knox. The gold vault of the U. S. Treasury is located on the reservation. Capt. Samuel Woodfill, a Kentuckian, was cited by General Pershing as the outstanding soldier of the war; Woodfill and Willie Sandlin were awarded Congressional medals of honor for heroism. Of the men who were drafted and enlisted, 70 to 80 percent passed their physical examinations and were accepted for Army service.

One of the outstanding achievements of the twentieth century in the State is the development of good roads, under a State highway commission. By 1920 the highway system was well enough organized to take over a large primary system of highways. The effects of improved highways in Kentucky upon the general character and welfare of the people cannot be overestimated. Not only have the highways speeded up commerce and travel, but they have tended to break down sectionalism. With primary roads in every county, it is no longer strange to see people from the remote eastern and western sections of the State strolling the streets of Louisville as nonchalantly as if they had lived there all their lives.

In the 50 years following the first census of 1790 the population increased more than tenfold from 73,677 to 779,828. It numbered 1,858,635 in 1890 and 2,614,589 in 1930. Only 30.6 percent of the 1930 population was classified as urban.

Kentucky's government has recently been completely modernized, but this has been done without touching the constitution itself and with only a few optional alterations in the county structure. Increasing difficulties with a government that tried to operate in an industrial era, on a constitution descended from Kentucky's former slave-owning agricultural status, led to the appointment of an efficiency commission in 1926. This body made a two-year study of the State's governmental needs, and recommended widespread changes, but controversies over their adoption disrupted the State for another ten years. In 1934 the executive offices were reorganized under Governor Ruby Laffoon, but this reorganization proved too cumbersome. After two years another exhaustive study was made that resulted in the Shields-Nickell Governmental Reorganization Act, approved March 7, 1936.

The important changes in this reorganization were the creation of a department of welfare, expanded powers of the department of health, consolidation of the State tax commission and the department of revenue and taxation into a single department of revenue, added powers of the efficiency department to improve the civil service, and the creation of a new department of conservation. Finally, there was added to the State government the legislative council, a modern unit in American government in operation now only in a few States. The function of this council is purely advisory. It examines and reports on the working of the existing legislative machine, prepares and submits programs for the general assembly, and promotes interstate comity. The present Kentucky government follows the traditional American system of three branches executive, legislative, and judiciary all responsible directly to the votes of the citizens. Citizenship qualifications are simple. Any person not an idiot or insane, who is over twenty-one years of age and has resided in the State one year, in the county six months, and in the voting precinct sixty days next preceding election, is qualified to vote; except that any person convicted of a felony forfeits his right of franchise, unless he is pardoned by the governor. There are no other qualifications.

The two units of local government are the county and the city. The county government today is an interesting survival from Colonial times, when its forms were borrowed more or less directly from England. Counties have their own courts which administer governmental functions ; they collect and spend their own revenues and in general regulate their affairs as they please, subject only to the restrictions of the general assembly which, as has been pointed out, is restricted by the constitution from interfering with major phases of local administration. The government is administered entirely by courts with the county judge as the executive. He is elected by the county at large and presides over the county court. Beneath this court the county is divided into magisterial districts, each with a justice of the peace in authority. These justices compose the fiscal court of each county, with rather indiscriminate legislative and judicial powers.

Kentucky cities have their own government, independent of their surrounding counties, and responsible only to the State. The legislature divides the cities into six classes, according to population, and provides debt limits and general forms of government for each. Three forms of city government are established, and variations from these are allowed by special legislative enactment: the standard mayor-council form, commission government, and the city manager plan.

The constitution of Kentucky, which covers all forms of government and of legislation throughout the State, is subject to alteration through two methods. An amendment may be proposed in either branch of the general assembly at a regular session, and if agreed to by a three-fifths vote of both branches, may be submitted to the voters of the State for adoption. Ninety days must elapse between the legislative adoption of the amendment and its submission to popular vote; and not more than two amendments may be voted on at any one time. If a widespread revision of the constitution is demanded, a general constitutional convention of delegates, equal in numbers to that of the house of representatives, may be authorized by the general assembly. The convention remodels the constitution and submits it to popular vote.

Kentucky has its State flag, its State flower, its State bird, and its State song. The flag is Kentucky blue with the seal of the Commonwealth encircled by a wreath of goldenrod in the center. The State flower is the goldenrod, the bird is the Kentucky cardinal, the song is "My Old Kentucky Home, Good Night," by Stephen Collins Foster

This information was Compiled and Written by the Federal Writers' Project
of the Work Projects Administration for the State of Kentucky - 1939

 



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