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Kentucky (/kənˈtʌki/ (About this soundlisten) kən-TUK-ee), officially the Commonwealth of Kentucky, is a state located in the east south-central region of the United States. Although styled as the "State of Kentucky" in the law creating it, (because in Kentucky's first constitution, the name state was used) Kentucky is one of four U.S. states constituted as a commonwealth (the others being Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts). Originally a part of Virginia, in 1792 Kentucky split from it and became the 15th state to join the Union. Kentucky is the 37th most extensive and the 26th most populous of the 50 United States.

Kentucky is known as the "Bluegrass State", a nickname based on the bluegrass found in many of its pastures due to the fertile soil. One of the major regions in Kentucky is the Bluegrass Region in central Kentucky, which houses two of its major cities, Louisville and Lexington. It is a land with diverse environments and abundant resources, including the world's longest cave system, Mammoth Cave National Park, the greatest length of navigable waterways and streams in the contiguous United States, and the two largest man-made lakes east of the Mississippi River.

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The Wilderness Road was the principal route used by settlers to reach Kentucky for more than fifty years. In 1775, Daniel Boone blazed a trail for the Transylvania Company from Fort Chiswell in Virginia through the Cumberland Gap into central Kentucky. It was later lengthened, following Native American trails, to reach the Falls of the Ohio at Louisville. The Wilderness Road was steep and rough, and could only be traversed on foot or horseback. Despite the adverse conditions, thousands of people used it. In 1792, the new Kentucky legislature provided money to upgrade the road. In 1796, an improved all-weather road was opened for wagon and carriage travel. The road was abandoned around 1840, although modern highways follow much of its route.

Because of the threat of Native American attacks, the road was so dangerous that most pioneers traveled well armed. Robbers and criminals also could be found on the road, ready to pounce on weaker pioneers. Although the Transylvania Company had purchased the region from the Cherokee, and the Iroquois had ceded it at the Treaty of Fort Stanwix, other tribes, such as the Shawnee, still claimed it and lived there.

During the American Civil War, both the Union Army and the Confederate States Army used the Road. An early battle (Camp Wildcat), stymied the first attempt by the Confederates to seize control of neutral Kentucky. The Cumberland Gap changed hands four times throughout the war. The southern armies used the road for marches into Virginia. General Ulysses S. Grant came down the road for the Union campaign in Tennessee in 1864. Grant was so taken by the Road that he said, "With two brigades of the Army of the Cumberland I could hold that pass against the army which Napoleon led to Moscow."

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Photo credit: A. C. Dixon
Pine Mountain State Resort Park is Kentucky's oldest state park.

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Owensboro is the third largest city in Kentucky and the county seat of Daviess County. According to 2006 estimates, the city had a total population of 55,525 and a metropolitan population of 111,599. Owensboro was first settled in the 1790s by frontiersman William "Bill" Smeathers, for which the park on the riverfront is named. The settlement was called Yellow Banks, an allusion to the color of the banks of the Ohio River. In 1817, Yellow Banks was incorporated as a city under the name Owensborough, named after Colonel Abraham Owen. In 1893, the name was shortened to its present spelling of Owensboro.

On August 14, 1936, downtown Owensboro became the site of the last public hanging in the United States. Rainey Bethea was executed for the rape of 70-year-old Lischa Edwards, who was also murdered. He had confessed to her strangling but the Commonwealth indicted him only on the rape charge since that was the only capital crime for which the penalty was hanging.

Owensboro considers itself the "BBQ Capital of the world"; it holds its International BBQ festival and competition every second weekend in May. Owensboro also hosts the Annual Owensboro PumpkinFest held each September at the Sportscenter/Moreland Park complex. The festival consists of food vendors, crafts people, carnival rides, children and adult activities and games, and plenty of contests using pumpkins.

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Confederate Monument in Murray

Kentucky Official Symbols

Quotes

"I hope to have God on my side, but I must have Kentucky." -- Abraham Lincoln

"I was brought up to believe that Scotch whisky would need a tax preference to survive in competition with Kentucky bourbon." -- Hugo Black

"Tough girls come from New York. Sweet girls, they're from Georgia. But us Kentucky girls, we have fire and ice in our blood. We can ride horses, be a debutante, throw left hooks, and drink with the boys, all the while making sweet tea, darlin'. And if we have an opinion, you know you're gonna hear it." -- Ashley Judd

"Soon after, I returned home to my family, with a determination to bring them as soon as possible to live in Kentucky, which I esteemed a second paradise, at the risk of my life and fortune." -- Daniel Boone

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My Old Kentucky Home State Park is a state park in Kentucky. It is located in Bardstown. The state park consists of Federal Hill, a former plantation owned by the Rowan family. A visit to the site in 1852 is said to have inspired Stephen Foster to write his famous song, My Old Kentucky Home. On June 1, 1992, a 29-cent stamp was issued honoring the park.

The park features an amphitheater that is home to the long-running outdoor musical, Stephen Foster — The Musical, which was usually staged each night except Monday during the summer. It is the longest running outdoor drama in the state of Kentucky, having started in 1959.

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Rick Pitino (born September 18, 1952) is the head basketball coach at the University of Louisville. He has also served as head coach at Providence College and the University of Kentucky, leading that program to the championship]] in the 1996 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament. Pitino holds the distinction of being the only men's coach in NCAA history to lead three different schools (Providence, Kentucky, and Louisville) to the Final Four. He has coached on the professional level for the New York Knicks and Boston Celtics with mixed success. He has earned respect as both a coach and motivator.

Pitino is considered by many to be one of the first coaches to promote fully taking advantage of the 3-point shot, first adopted by the NCAA in 1987. By exploiting the 3-point shot, his teams at Kentucky in the early 1990s were known as Pitino's Bombinos, as a significant portion of the offensive points came from the 3-point shot. Even now, Pitino's teams are known for the 3-point threat and all of his teams rank towards the top in 3-point attempts per season.

Pitino is the author of a motivational self-help book (and audio recording) named Success Is a Choice. He published an autobiography in 1988 entitled Born to Coach describing his life up until his time with the Knicks.

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