Kentucky Fun Facts
Some things to laugh at, some things to scratch your head over, and some things just to make you say "Hmm".
 
Did you know:

Home Sweet Home

As the Ice Age ended about 12,000 years ago, Paleoindians, the ancestors of modern Indians began to settle in the land known now as Kentucky.  They hunted mastadon, bison and deer, the bones of which have been found at Big Bone lick as well as other salt licks.

Farewell, Virginia

The last Virginia governor to serve over the land that would become Kentucky was Henry Lee.  Also known as Light Horse Harry, one of George Washington's most trusted officers during the Revolution, He was the father of Robert E. Lee.

In Vino Veritas

The first vineyard west of the Alleghenies was established by John Frances DeFoure in Jessamine County in 1796.  DeFoure was a native of Vevay, Switzerland.  The venture was not profitable enough here.  He later settled in Indiana in a town now called Vevay, Switzerland County, Indiana where his grapes grew much better.

What's-His-Name

Dr. Thomas Hunt Morgan, a Lexingtonian, received the Nobel Prize in medicine for his work in genetics in 1933.  The headline in the Lexington paper simply read, "Nephew of John Hunt Morgan wins Nobel Prize".

Off to the Races

One of Kentucky's most famous thoroughbreds, Man O' War, never ran a race in the state.

Third Time's a Charm

Preston H. Leslie served as governor three different times.  Upon the resignation of Gov. Stevenson, Leslie was sworn into the office.  In 1871, he was duly elected.  In 1886, President Grover Cleveland appointed Leslie as Governor of the Territory of Montana.  He is the only governor from Kentucky to have served in that capacity in two states.

The First President From Kentucky

Abraham Lincoln was not the first person from Kentucky to serve as President of the United States.  That honor goes to David Rice Atchison, president pro tempore of the US Senate.  At midnight on March 3, 1849, James K. Polk left the office as Zachary Taylor (then a resident of Louisville) had won the election for President.  However, since the 4th of March was on a Sunday, Taylor preferred not to take office until Monday, the 5th.  Thus, Atchison, being the president of the Senate, was President for one day.

Remember the Raison

Over half of the casualties in the War of 1812 were Kentuckians.

What's That Smell?

In the movie, Harper Valley PTA, a secretary had an unfortunate mishap involving a load of horse manure.  That manure was courtesy of Kentucky thoroughbred, Seattle Slew.

The Sky Is Falling

Middlesboro, in Bell Co., is the only city in the US that is built inside of a meteor crater.

Virginia Roots

Charles Morehead II, a resident of Fauquier Co., Virginia was an ancestor of three Kentucky governors - James Morehead, Charles S. Morehead and Simon Bolivar Buckner.

A Minor Squabble

A duel between two friends, John Thomas Gray, Jr., and Capt. Henry Clay Pope on June 14, 1849 was the inspiration for the provision to the state constitution that elected and appointed officials must swear to have never fought in a duel.  The governor still has to swear to this today.

Amen, Pass the Corn Meal

Kentucky's first grist mill was built in 1783 on Elkhorn Creek in Fayette County by Rev. Lewis Craig.  As the church had not yet been constructed, Rev. Craig's congregation used the mill for worship.

Speaking of Corn and Craigs

Bourbon Whiskey takes its name from Bourbon County. Elijah Craig made the first batch in 1789.  Elijah was also a preacher.

Custer's First Stand?

From 1871 to 1873, George Armstrong Custer was stationed in Hardin County in order to suppress the Ku Klux Klan and corrupt carpetbaggers.

Water, Water Everywhere

Kentucky's first public waterworks was established in Frankfort.  An original, cedar log pipe from the system is on display in the Frankfort City Museum on Ann St.

Lights, Camera.......

D.W. Griffith, maker of the famous "Birth of a Nation", was born and raised in Lagrange, Oldham County.  He is often credited with being the "father of Hollywood".

Man, That's a Lot of Glass

The Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption in Covington has 82 stained-glass windows including the world's largest hand-blown one. The window measures 24 feet wide by 67 feet high and depicts the Council of Ephesus with 134 life-sized figures.

Does This Make Me Look Fat?

The swimsuit Mark Spitz wore in the 1972 Olympic games was manufactured in Paris, Kentucky.

Howdy, Neighbor

Both Abraham Lincoln, President of the Union, and Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy were born in Kentucky. They were born less than one hundred miles and one year apart.  

Long and Deep

Mammoth Cave is the world's longest cave system.  It was first promoted in 1816, making it the second oldest tourist attraction in the United States. Niagara Falls was first.  Who was the first to say, "Gee, there's a big dark hole in the ground.  Let's go inside!"

Say "Ahhh"

Two doctors have served as governor in Kentucky: Luke Blackburn (1879-1883) and Ernie Fletcher (2003-2007)

Ye Olde Watering Hole

Near Midway, in Woodford County, stands the Offutt-Cole Tavern, one of the oldest structures in Kentucky.  It was here that Zerelda James, mother of the outlaws Frank and Jesse, was born.

How's the View Up There?

The world's tallest married couple was Martin Van Buren Bates and his wife Anna Swan Bates.  Martin, from Whitesburg, was 7' 2.5" and Anna was 7' 5.5".  They met while traveling with Barnum's Circus and later settled in Ohio.  Martin had served in the 7th Kentucky Cavalry, Confederate, during the Civil War and was so large, that his feet nearly touched the ground while riding his horse.  Poor horse.

First Europeans to KY

Robert La Salle was the first Frenchman to enter Kentucky in 1679 while on an exploration trip from Canada.  The first Englishman to come to Kentucky was Gabriel Arthur, while a prisoner of the Shawnee in 1674.  He later escaped and made his way back to Virginia.

Load Sixteen Tons....

In Middlesboro there stands the Coal House, made from 40 tons of coal.  Built in 1926, it serves as the Chamber of Commerce and tourist information center.

Rub-a-dub-dub

The first enameled bathtub was made in Louisville in 1856.

Long Before They Thought We Were Hillbillies

The first American performance of a Beethoven symphony was in Lexington in 1817. Take that, fancy New York columnist.

A Land of Irony

Christian County is wet (allowing liquor sales) while Bourbon County is dry. Barren County has the most fertile land.  And Big Bone Lick ain't what it sounds like.

McDonald's Owes Us...

The world's first cheeseburger was served at Kaolin's restaurant in Louisville in 1934.

...So Does Texas

The first commercial oil well was established on the Cumberland River in McCreary County.  It started in 1819.

Another Dubious Distinction

The first American casualty of WWI was Kentuckian Cpl. James Bethel Gresham of McLean County.

Mr. Bibb

John Bibb, a resident of Frankfort, developed Bibb lettuce in his garden.  Sandwiches and salads haven't been the same since.

Kentucky's Oldest Court Houses

Built in 1816, the oldest courthouse in use is the Washington County Courthouse in Springfield.  The oldest courthouse standing in Kentucky is the old Green County Courthouse in Greensburg.  It currently houses the Green County Historical Society museum.  It was erected in the 1790s.

Kentucky Almost Had 121 Counties

In 1904, Beckham County was formed from Carter, Elliot, and Lewis Counties by an act of the state legislature.  A few months after its creation, the Kentucky Court of Appeals declared the act to be un-constitutional and Beckham County was dissolved.

Kentucky's Biggest Cash Crop (not what you are thinking)

Hemp (ok, maybe it was) was first raised in Kentucky near Danville in 1775.  Growing very well in our climate, hemp became the biggest cash crop grown in the Commonwealth in the 19th century, the largest yields coming from Jessamine and Fayette Counties.  Its fibers were used in the manufacture of rope for the shipping industry and burlap bagging for the cotton industry, among others.  Due to factors such as the Civil War, steam engines for ships, and cheap foreign jute, hemp all but disappeared by the early 1900s.  Hemp was grown again during WWII to supply rope for the war effort.

Our Beloved State Song

Mrs. Grant E. Lilly sponsored the song "My Old Kentucky Home" to become our state anthem in 1928 when the bill was introduced in the Kentucky General Assembly to make the tune our official state song.

Lexington Mustard

In the 1830s, school master Nathan Burrows produced a new variety of mustard.  He named the concoction after his home town.  Lexington Mustard was sold throughout the country.

Our First College

In 1780, under the urging of Col. John Todd, the Virginia Legislature granted 8,000 acres for the establishment of an institution of higher learning.  After the counties of Jefferson, Lincoln, and Fayette were formed the same year, another 12,000 was given to the trustees of the school, not yet having a name or a location.  This same year, the trustees held their first meeting near Danville.  In 1784, the first session of what was called Transylvania Seminary, was held in the home of a Presbyterian minister named David Rice, near Danville.  The first Master of the school was the Rev. James Mitchell, his salary set at thirty pounds sterling per year.  In 1788, Transylvania moved to Lexington, and in 1793, the school moved into its first permanent building at its present location near what is known today as Gratz Park.

The American Colonization Society

 

This organization was formed to relocate freed slaves to Africa.  The colony thus formed was Liberia.  Among its members were Kentuckians Henry Clay (once its president) and Abraham Lincoln.

 

The Language of the Finger Rings (from an 1870s Ky newspaper clipping)

 

In the case of a gentleman wishing to marry literally "in the market" with his heart he wears a plain or chased gold 

ring upon the first finger of the left (or heart) hand.

When success attends his suit and he is actually engaged, the ring passes to the second finger.

After marriage, it passes to the third finger.

If, however, the gentleman desires to tell the fair ones the he not only is not in market, but he does not design to marry at all, he wears the signet upon his little finger, and all ladies may understand that he is out of their reach.

With the fair sex, the "laws of the ring" are:

A plain or chased gold ring on the little finger of the right hand implies "not engaged;" or in plain words, "ready for

proposals, sealed or otherwise."

When engaged, the ring passes to the first finger of the left hand.

When married, the third finger receives it.

If the fair one proposes to defy all siege to her heart, she places the rings on her first and fourth fingers one on each,

like two charms to keep away the tempter. It is somewhat singular that the disposition of rings is rare!

A Scott County Indian School

In 1825, the Marquis de Lafayette, on a visit to Kentucky, was entertained by about 200 students from Col. Richard Johnson's Choctaw Academy near Great Crossing in Scott county.

Known the World Over

Perhaps the most recognizable song in the world, "Happy Birthday to You", was written by sisters Patty and Mildred Hill in Louisville in 1893. 

Two Timer

James B. McCreary of Madison County was the oldest person to be elected Governor of Kentucky.  He was elected in 1875 at the age of 37 and again in 1912 at the age of 74.

 
 
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