Kentucky - History and Heritage

Kentucky holds a special place in the history and heritage of our nation. Here are listed just a few of the sites that tell Kentucky’s story:

Wickliffe Mounds State Historic Site (Ballard County)
Wickliffe Mounds is the archaeological site of a prehistoric Native American village of the Mississippian mound builders. Located on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River, the village was occupied from about A.D. 1100 to 1350.The site includes a museum which exhibits the excavated features of the mounds, outstanding displays of Mississippian pottery, stone tools, bone and shell implements, the architecture of Mississippian mounds and houses, burial practices of the Mississippians and a bird's eye view of the bluff atop the ceremonial mound.

Fort Boonesboro State Park (Richmond)
Fort Boonesboro, located on the banks of the Kentucky River in central Kentucky and opened in 1974, is a reconstructed fort community on the original site of Daniel Boone’s Fort Boonesborough erected in 1777. The fort features living history, with the presence of Kentucky crafters and interpreters, and regularly includes activities and events that invite the public to step back in time and experience pioneer life as it existed on the Kentucky frontier more than 200 years ago.

Henry Clay is one of the largest political figures in United States history, having a public career that spanned half a century. Born in Virginia in 1777, Clay moved to Lexington, Kentucky, at the age of twenty, and eventually established himself as a major land owner, livestock breeder and farmer. Built by Clay as the focal point of his 600-acre farm and estate beginning in 1804, and home of Clay’s family and African American slaves for more than 40 years, Ashland is now a National Historic Landmark.

Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site (Hodgenville)
In the fall of 1808, Thomas and Nancy Lincoln settled on the 348-acre Sinking Spring Farm. Two months later on February 12, 1809, Abraham Lincoln was born in a one-room log cabin. Here the Lincolns lived and farmed before moving to land a few miles away at Knob Creek. The area was nationally recognized and established by Congress on July 17, 1916. An early 19th-century Kentucky cabin, symbolic of the one in which Lincoln was born, is preserved in a memorial building at the site of his birth. Tangible objects from Lincoln’s time still exist at the site today.

Abraham Lincoln Boyhood Home (Knob Creek)
Just a few miles down the road from the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site is the farm at Knob Creek. The Lincolns moved to this farm in 1811 when Abe Lincoln was just a toddler. He wrote later in life that his earliest recollections were of the Knob Creek home. His brother, Thomas, who died in infancy, was buried on the property. Abe Lincoln also received his only formal schooling during the time the family resided at Knob Creek.

Mary Todd Lincoln Home (Lexington)
This two-story brick house was built between1803 and1806 by William Palmateer. In 1831 Palmateer sold the property to Robert S. Todd, father of Mary Todd Lincoln. In 1832, when Mary was 13 years old, Mr. Todd moved his family to this newly renovated house. In 1839, at age 21, Mary Todd left Lexington to live with her sister in Springfield, Illinois. There she met, and in 1842 married, attorney and political figure, Abraham Lincoln. The home is the first historic home preserved in honor of a First Lady.

Farmington Historic Home (Louisville)
Farmington is a 14-room federal-style home that was the center of the 19th-century hemp plantation of John and Lucy Speed. Designed from a plan by Thomas Jefferson and completed in 1816 using slave labor, the house was visited by Abraham Lincoln, a close friend of John Speed's son Joshua, in 1841. Most of the structure, including the woodwork, glass and brass, is original and still in excellent condition. The present 18-acre site also includes an elaborate early 19th-century garden, stone springhouse and barn, cook's quarters and kitchen, blacksmith shop, apple orchard, museum store and remodeled carriage house.

Mantle Rock (Livingston County)
Mantle Rock is a natural sandstone bridge located in Livingston County and is a site of great significance in the heritage of the Cherokee Nation. During the winter of 1838-39, several hundred Cherokee died during a forced march along what has become known as the "Trail of Tears." That winter, a crossing point along the Ohio River became frozen and impassable. Hundreds of Cherokee were forced to camp for several weeks without sufficient protection and provisions with Mantle Rock as their only shelter. Nearly 300 Cherokee died here. Today, Mantle Rock stands as a Native American Historical Landmark.

Perryville Battlefield (outside Perryville)
On October 8, 1862, 18,000 Confederates clashed with 20,000 Union troops on the hills outside of Perryville. Nearly 7,500 soldiers were killed and wounded in Kentucky’s largest Civil War battle. The Confederate failure to attain a decisive victory here kept Kentucky in the Union and marked the last major incursion of Confederate forces into the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Today Perryville is one of the most pristine battlefields in the United States. It has remained virtually the same today as it was in the mid-19th century. The presence of the battlefield, coupled with historic Merchants’ Row, Perryville’s antebellum commercial district, makes Perryville the ideal place to study 19th-century military and civilian life.

Camp Nelson Heritage Park (Lexington)
Camp Nelson holds national historic significance relative to both the Civil War and African American history and is one of the most important sites in Kentucky’s history. The site, on 400 acres of sprawling countryside above the palisades of the Kentucky River near Lexington, originally encompassed a 4,000-acre area. It was the supply center for Union troops in Central and Eastern Kentucky, Eastern Tennessee and Southwestern Virginia, and Kentucky’s largest (and the nation’s third largest) recruitment and training camp for African American troops. Eight U.S. Colored Infantry, Cavalry, and Heavy Artillery regiments were formed and trained at Camp Nelson. More than 10,000 African Americans gained their freedom by enlisting here. In addition, because many soldiers’ families followed them to the camp, a refugee (contraband) camp was eventually established by the Army that included housing and school facilities.

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