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Kentucky: The 15th State

Travelling the Wilderness Road.

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The Woodland people first lived in the area, followed by the Fort Ancient people. These tribes built mounds in the land that we can still see today. When Europeans arrived in the 1600s, the Cherokee, Delaware, and Shawnee occupied the territory.

Kentucky was hard to reach due to the Appalachian Mountains, so it was not settled right away. In 1750 a pass, called the Cumberland Gap, was discovered by Dr. Thomas Walker as he explored the area. This made it easier for settlers to cross the mountains.

The British had promised not to enter the natives’ territory past the mountains, but they did anyway. They built the first European settlement in the region, Harrodsburg. The Shawnee were not happy with this, and soon a war broke out between the Europeans and the Natives. The Shawnee were defeated at the Battle of Point Pleasant.

One of Kentucky’s most famous people was Daniel Boone. He guided settlers to the area and created the town of Boonesborough. He also improved and widened the Cumberland Gap so wagons could travel the pass. The trail was known as the Wilderness Road.

Kentucky became the 15th state to join the Union, on June 1, 1792.

During the Civil War, Kentucky was torn between both sides. It was a slaveholding state, but it also shared a border with the North. At first, the citizens did not declare a side. They refused to fight in the war until a Confederate Army invaded the state. After that, Kentucky declared its loyalty to the North.

Interesting Facts

  • Abraham Lincoln, leader of the Union, and Jefferson Davis, leader of the Confederacy, were both born in Kentucky.
  • The Hatfields of West Virginia and the McCoys of Kentucky had a family feud that lasted for over 100 years. It first started in late August of 1888 after nine Hatfield family members were found guilty of a raid on the McCoys. The families signed a formal truce in 2003.
  • The “Happy Birthday to You” melody was created in 1893 by Mildred and Patty Hill, Kentucky sisters who wanted a song that teachers could sing to the children. It was called “Good Morning to All.” Robert Coleman, in 1924, changed the lyrics and published the tune.


Kelli Ballard

National Correspondent at and Kelli Ballard is an author, editor, and publisher. Her writing interests span many genres including a former crime/government reporter, fiction novelist, and playwright. Originally a Central California girl, Kelli now resides in the Seattle area.

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