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Native American Resistance and Statehood

Kentucky was made (1776) a county of Virginia, and new settlers came through the Cumberland Gap and over the Wilderness Road or down the Ohio River. These early pioneers of Kentucky and Tennessee were constantly in conflict with the Native Americans. The growing population of Kentuckians, feeling that Virginia had failed to give them adequate protection, worked for statehood in a series of conventions held at Danville (1784–91). Others, observing the weaknesses of the U.S. government, considered forming an independent nation. Since trade down the Mississippi and out of Spanish-held New Orleans was indispensable to Kentucky’s economic development, an alliance with Spain was contemplated, and U.S. General James Wilkinson, who lived in Kentucky at the time, worked toward that end.

However, in 1792 a constitution was finally framed and accepted, and in the same year the Commonwealth of Kentucky (its official designation) was admitted to the Union, the first state W of the Appalachians. Isaac Shelby was elected the first governor, and Frankfort was chosen capital. U.S. General Anthony Wayne’s victory at the battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794 effectively ended Native American resistance in Kentucky.

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