Author: Sandi Gorin    

Where did most of the original Kentucky settlers come from? White settlers
began moving into what is now Kentucky in the 1770's while we were still a
part of the state of Virginia. This was a result of Virginia issuing land
warrants to the veterans of the French-Indian War and later the
Revolutionary War. Settlers entered the state over the Wilderness Road and
traveling down the Ohio River. The population was approximately a half a
million by 1820 and then dropped below the national average as many of the
Kentucky residents moved on to other states. It wasn't until the 1850
census that the government started keeping data on where our citizens had
been born. By 1860 Virginia still ranked as the state of greatest movement
into Kentucky, followed by Tennessee, Ohio, North Carolina and
Pennsylvania. By the 1870 census, the greatest influx of new citizens came
from Tennessee. One hundred years later, Ohio.

If Kentuckians were leaving this state, where did they go? In 1850 they
went primarily to Missouri and Texas. This pattern continued until about
1910 when the paths shifted to the northern states of Ohio, Illinois,
Indiana and Michigan. Most of these shifts were because by the availability
of good land, following by economic factors.

What about the foreign immigrants? Kentucky ranks low in this regard. In
1850 there were 31,400 immigrants in Kentucky or 4%. This rose to 6.4% in
1869 with it peaking to 63,4000 immigrants in 1870. From that time, the
immigrants decreased with 34,562 in 1980. (Howard W. Beers, Growth of
Population in Kentucky 1860-1940, Lexington, KY, 1942.)

French Settlements came about due to France's claim to the Ohio Valley on
the supposed discovery of the valley by Rene-Robert Cavelier de La Salle in
1669 where he claimed in 1682 the entire Mississippi River watershed.
However, the French didn't try to settle the area because the Iroquois
Indians claimed it and the French claimed that the Kentucky furs were
inferior to those farther north. But, by 1749 they became alarmed by
growing raids beyond the Alleghenies by English traders, Gov. Gen
Roland-Michel Barrin de al Gallissoniere sent 213 regulars, Canadians and
Indians from Quebec to counter English claims to the Ohio and to protect
the Mississippi corridor. This 4-month operation saw them crossing to the
Allegheny; passing down to the Ohio to the Great Miami. But this didn't
make much of an impact on the English and the Indians, for Indian
irregulars destroyed the English-Indian trading center on the Upper Miami
in 1752 and a chain of forts were establish by 1754 from Presq'Isle to the
forks of the Ohio. The forts survived until British Gen. John Forbes sent
an expedition and the Pennsylvanian Indians deserted and the French were
forced to abandon, surrendering in 1763 to the English. The Americans owed
a debt of gratitude to the French for their assistance during the
Revolutionary War and many place names in Kentucky are in gratitude to
their assistance - Versailles, Bourbon, Paris, Fayette, La Grange and
Louisville.(Leslie Tihany, "French Legends Die Hard in Kentucky, FCHQ 55,
April 1981.)

German settlements were among the earliest in Kentucky. Isaac Hite was
Isaac Hayd; he surveyed in Kentucky in 1773 and returned with James Harrod,
founding Harrodsburg in 1774. Daniel Boone's companion (one of many) was
German Michael Stoner (Holsteiner), a Pennsylvanian Dutchman. Matthia
Harmon (Hermann) was one of the search party looking for Jenny Wiley in
1798. The famous Kentucky Rifle and the conestoga wagon were two of the
contributions of the Germans. By 1790 only 14% of Kentucky's population was
of German roots. Jefferson County was an area of a great number of German
immigrants. Two Germans, along with others, laid out Lexington in 1781. The
majority of German settlement was along the Ohio River. German editors such
as Karl Heinzen became newspaper editors. By 1850 there arose an
anti-German reaction, primarily by the Roman Catholic. In 1855, in
Louisville, attempts were made by the Know-Nothing party to keep the
Germans from being able to vote; this erupted into riots which killed many.
During the Civil War, many Germans were recruited into the Army and
contributed greatly to the battles of Mill Springs and Munfordville. Many
Germans and German-speaking immigrants from Austria and Switzerland settled
in the cities. Smaller numbers preferred the country areas. One Henrich
Lembke, on orders in 1885 from the state, reported that he had found 13
colonies in Kentucky from Lyon County to Laurel County, with the heaviest
settlement in Louisville, Covington and Newport. The anti-German settlement
calmed down, William Gobel, son of German immigrants was elected Governor.

Covington, Kentucky, the largest city in northern Kentucky, can trace many
of its founders to the Irish and German. Louisville and Jefferson County is
made up many immigrants from Scot-Irish, English and German descent, also
many of Dutch descent. The first weekly edition of "Kentucky Irish
American" newspaper was published in 1898 by William M. Higgins, of
Louisville for its Irish descendants.

Over the years, Kentucky has become, as all states have, a melting pot of
citizens from all over the world. This has been just a birds-eye-view of
the earlier times when Kentucky's frontiers were opened and with this, the
cultures of many nations can be seen flourishing together. English, French,
German, Dutch, Irish ... all blend in with those from the other countries
to make Kentucky an area flowing with cultural diversity.

(c) Copyright 14 Aug 2003, Sandra K. Gorin.