History of Kentucky
The region of today’s Kentucky, especially the areas near larger waterways, is thought to have been inhabited since at least 1000 BC by various Native American tribes. The area was rich in game, especially bison, and the land was fertile, which made the region capable of supporting large populations. However, despite the advantages that the terrain offered, when the Europeans came to the region in the 18th century, they didn’t find large settlements of native people. Some tribes, like Iroquois that lived in the region of today’s New York, Cherokee, who lived to the south of the region and Shawnee who lived to the northeast, considered this region to be their traditional hunting grounds, and tried to repel the Europeans that attempted to settle in the region.
These conflicts lasted even after the Revolutionary War, it is estimated that 1,500 settlers were killed in skirmishes with the native tribes after the war was over. This was answered by an organized campaign in 1786 that counted 1,200 men who launched attacks on the Shawnee settlements located on the Wabash River. This campaign was one the first attacks in what was to become the Northwest Indian War.
Once the American Revolution was over, the regions of Virginia that extend over the Appalachian Mountains were the basis of the new Kentucky County. In time, the inhabitants of this region started petitioning for independence from Virginia. This has prompted ten separate constitutional conventions that were held between 1784 and 1792, with the final one being the drafting of the Kentucky’s constitution. It is in the same year that Kentucky was accepted into the Union as its 15th state. The first Governor of the new-founded Commonwealth of Kentucky was a Virginian military veteran, Isaac Shelby.
Kentucky was a slave state, with the largest slave population in the central regions of the state, which had a lot of grazing lands for the cattle and a number of hemp and tobacco plantations. In the 19th century the slaveholders of the region established a large slave market in Louisville from which they transported slaves to the south. Along with Missouri, Maryland and Delaware, Kentucky was one of the four slave states that didn’t secede from the Union when the Civil War started, even though the Ordinance of Secession was passed in 1861 in Russellville by the so called Convention of the People of Kentucky. However, that convention wasn’t supported by the majority of voters in Kentucky, and even though the Confederate battle flag included Kentucky, the state remained neutral in the war despite the fact that many people supported the Union and wanted Kentucky to fight on its side.
In the early 20th century, Kentucky went through an uprising of tobacco farmers known as the Black Patch Tobacco Wars. Tobacco industry in the area was monopolized, meaning that the farmer had to sell their product at very low prices. After a while, they rebelled and started boycotting the trade. Even the farmers who tried to sell their product couldn’t because of the organization called the Night Riders that harassed everyone who didn’t want to have a part in the boycott. After tobacco warehouses in Princeton and Hopkinsville were burned down by members of this organization, martial law was declared by the Governor of the state and Kentucky Militia was sent to the region to end the uprising.
Economy of Kentucky
In 2010 the GSP (gross state product) of Kentucky was $163.3 billion, which made it the state with the 28th highest GSP in the nation, while per capita income of its citizens was $28,513, which placed Kentucky in the 43rd position in the US. The unemployment rate in the same year was 10%.
Kentucky’s economy has always been reliant on the state’s fertile soil. The first commercial winery in the nation was opened in 1799 in the region of today’s Jessamine County. The high percentage of calcium in the soil made this state one of the more important horse breeding and racing regions in the nation. Agriculture is still one of the important industries in Kentucky. The state is 14th in the nation when it comes to corn production, 8th when it comes to the production of beef cattle and 5th when it comes to goat farming.
Naturally, Kentucky’s economy doesn’t only rely on agriculture; other important industries revolve around medical facilities, energy fuel production and auto manufacturing. Kentucky’s two coalfields produce enough coal annually (107,336 tons) to produce 4% of the nation’s electricity, while additional 20% of the United State’s electric power comes from the enriched uranium rods produced in the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant, the only facility in the nation capable of producing enriched uranium. This state is 4th in the nation when it comes to the number of assembled truck or cars, it is where Toyota Venza, Toyota Solara, Toyota Avalon, Toyota Camry, Lincoln Navigator, Ford Expedition, Ford Super Duty trucks, Ford Escape, Cadillac XLR and Chevrolet Corvette are being assembled.
The income tax in the state comes in six brackets, ranging from 6% to 2%. The sales tax is fixed at 6%. Property taxes in the state are based on classes of the property, and the rates depend on the local government, although certain classes are regulated by the Kentucky Supreme Court or the Kentucky General Assembly.
Kentucky Geography and Climate
The state is located in the Upland South region of the US, although it is also considered a part of the Midwest. The state has Ohio on the north and northeast, Indiana and Illinois on the northwest, Missouri on the west, Tennessee on the south, Virginia on the southeast and West Virginia on the east. The western border of the state is formed by the Mississippi River, while the northern one is formed by the Ohio River. The borders were formed in 1792, and the rivers have since changed their course in some parts.
The state is divided into five distinct geographical regions; the Jackson Purchase on the far west, the Western Coal Fields, the Pennyroyal Plateau stretching over the western and the south-central parts of the state, the Bluegrass region in the north and the Cumberland Plateau in the eastern part of the state. The Bluegrass region is further subdivided into two regions, the Inner and the Outer Bluegrass.
Kentucky has one of the longest and most complex stream systems in the nation with its 90,000 miles of streams. It is also where the largest artificial lakes east of Mississippi are located, Kentucky Lake, which is the largest when it comes to surface area, and Lake Cumberland, that has the greatest water volume. The state only has three larger natural lakes, but it has a number of artificial lakes. Kentucky is the only state that has rivers on three sides, Tug Fork and the Big Sandy River on the east, Ohio River on the north and the Mississippi River on the west. The largest rivers in the state are the Licking River, Green River, Cumberland River, Tennessee River and Kentucky River. Kentucky is second only to Alaska when it comes to the navigable water mileage.
The state has done much o preserve its natural beauty with its 82 Wildlife Management Areas, 37,696 acres of forests, 45 state parks, 2 National Wildlife Refuges, 2 national forests, 2 National Historic Parks, 2 National Recreation areas and 1 national park. The state has also restocked the population of two species that were extinct in this region, the elk and the wild turkey. The state offers a number of historical or natural sights including the Cumberland Falls, which are the only location in the western hemisphere where one can often see a ‘moon bow’, Cumberland Gap, which was the main pass over the Appalachian Mountains in the period of the early settlers, Breaks Interstate Park, often referred to as the ‘Grand Canyon of the South’, Natural Bridge in the Kentucky Powel County, Lake Cumberland, Jefferson Memorial Forest in the Knobs Region, Bad Branch Falls State Nature Preserve that stretches over 2,639 acres, the Black Mountain in the Letcher County, which is where the highest point in Kentucky is located, Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, Land Between the Lakes, Red River Gorge, as well as the longest known cave system in the world, the Mammoth Cave national Park.
Climate in the state is humid subtropical with the average summer temperatures of around 87 °F and average winter temperatures of 23 °F. The state is getting 46 inches of annual precipitation. The highest temperature in the state of 114 °F was recorded in 1930 at Greensburg, while the lowest temperature of −37 °F was recorded in 1994 at Shelbyville.
Population of Kentucky
In 2006 the population of Kentucky was estimated at 4,206,074 people which was an increase of 0.8% or 33,466 people when compared to the previous year, or 4.1% or 164,586 people when compared to the year 2000. Between years 2005 and 2006 there have been 210,066 deaths and 287,222 births, resulting in a natural increase of 77,156 people, and the net migrations have resulted in an increase of 59,604 people. In 2004, 2.3% or 95,000 of the state’s inhabitants were not born in the state. In 2011 the population of the state was estimated at 4,369,356, which presented an increase of 0.69% when compared to the previous year, and the state’s population density was 101.7 inhabitants per square mile. The population of Kentucky has been shifting from rural regions to the urban ones since 1900. Kentucky’s center of population is located in Willisburg in the Washington County.
It is estimated that 30.6% of the inhabitants of Kentucky are of English origin, 12.7% of German, 10.5% of Irish and 7.8% of African American. When it comes to ethnicity, 86.3% of the state’s inhabitants are non-Hispanic white people, 7.8% African American, 3.1% Hispanic or Latino, 1.1% Asian, 0.2% American Indian and Alaska Native and 0.1% of people are Pacific Islanders.
In 2000 the survey studying the religious affiliations of the state’s inhabitants showed that 47% were not members of any church, 34% belonged to Evangelical Protestant churches of which 24% or 979,994 people were members of the Southern Baptist Convention, 3% or 106,638 people belonged to Christian churches and 1% or 58,602 people belonged to the Churches of Christ, while 10% of the state’s population were Roman Catholics, 9% were a member of a mainline Protestant Church, of which 5% or 208, 720 people belonged to the United Methodist Church and 2% or 67,611 people were affiliated with Disciples of Christ. The state’s population also included 0.05% of Orthodox Christians and 1% of people were affiliated with other religions.
There are a number of religious seminaries in the state, such as Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Baptist Seminary of Kentucky and Lexington Theological Seminary in Lexington, as well as Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Louisville. There are also a number of colleges that are affiliated with different denominations, such as Mayfield based Mid-Continent University, Georgetown College located in Georgetown, Campbellsville based Campbellsville University and the University of the Cumberlands, in Williamsburg, all of which are affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention or the Brescia University in Owensboro and Spalding and Bellarmine in Louisville that are affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church.
Kentucky Government and Legislation
Along with Virginia, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, Kentucky is the only US state that is considered a commonwealth. The term is only used to differentiate the state from a royal colony and holds little practical significance even though it is often mentioned in Kentucky’s constitution and government documents. Kentucky, like all of the other US states, is governed as a republic. It is, along with Virginia, New Jersey, Mississippi and Louisiana, one of the states in which the state officials are elected in the odd numbered years, one year before the nation’s presidential elections.
Governor is the head of the executive branch and servers as both the head of government and the head of state. As of 1992 Lieutenant Governor is elected on the same ticket as the Governor and can only perform the Governor’s duties if the Governor is somehow incapacitated, and not if the Governor is out of the state, as was the practice before 1992. Depending on whether the Lieutenant Governor is a member of the Governor’s cabinet he or she is given or denied the executive power. Other officials of the executive branch are the Commissioner of Agriculture, State Treasurer, Auditor of Public Accounts, Attorney General and the Secretary of the State. Executive branch officials are elected to four year terms. Currently, all of the officials except for the Commissioner of Agriculture are Democrats.
Just like all of the other states apart from Nebraska, Kentucky’s legislative branch is represented by a bicameral General Assembly. It consists of the upper house, the Kentucky Senate that has 38 members and the lower house, the House of Representatives with 100 members. The Senate is presided over by the President of the Senate, while the House of Representatives is presided over by the Speaker of the House. Houses of General Assembly are responsible for proposing and passing bills, both houses must pass the bill if it is to be accepted.
Kentucky Court of Justice serves as the state’s judicial branch. It consists of a number of different courts, including the Kentucky Court of Appeals which is an intermediate appellate court, Family Court and Drug Court which are known as the specialty courts, Circuit Courts which have general jurisdiction and District Courts with limited jurisdiction. The highest court in the state is Kentucky Supreme Court, which only rarely has original jurisdiction, but mostly has cases relegated to it from other courts, usually from the Court of Appeals. The head of the judicial branch is the Chief Justice of Commonwealth.
The state is divided into 120 counties with local governments embodied in Fiscal Courts, which despite their name, don’t have judicial functions, and the local executive officers known as the County Judges or Executives.
Kentucky’s road system consists of three spurs and bypasses, nine parkways and five interstate highways – I-24, I-65, I-64, I- 71 and I-75. The last two toll roads, the Audubon Parkway and the William H. Natcher Parkway stopped charging the drivers in 2006, by the Governor’s decree. This was accomplished 7 months before it was scheduled and was generally considered to have been a positive influence on the economic development of the Kentucky’s transportation system.
The railroads in the state are under the supervision of Amtrak, which provides service to Fulton, Maysville, South Portsmouth and Ashland. In 2004 it was estimated that there are somewhere around 2,640 miles of railways in the state, with the majority of it being the responsibility of CSX Transportation. Coal is by far the most common cargo on the railroad, with it constituting 61% of the delivered cargo and 76% of loaded cargo. Older parts of the railway are sometimes employed as tourist attractions. This is the case with the My Old Kentucky Dinner Train tour that lasts for two and a half hours as the passengers are transported along the 20 mile long railway between Limestone Springs and Bardstown.
The most important airports in the state are Blue Grass Airport located in Lexington, Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport and Louisville International Airport. The state also has a number of regional airports.
When one considers the fact that two of the largest rivers in the nation are forming Kentucky’s borders it is not surprising that waterways play an important part in the transportation in the state. In the 19th century, Louisville was an important steamship port. Just like the railway, most of the water transportation in Kentucky revolves around coal. Some of the largest US ports are in Kentucky, including 55th largest port and the 7th largest inland port in the nation, Louisville-Southern Indiana; the 43rd largest port and the 5th largest inland port Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky; and the 7th largest port and the largest inland port in the US, the Huntington/Tri-State. Kentucky is the 10th state in the US when it comes to the overall port tonnage.
Kentucky Education System
In 1990 Kentucky General Assembly passed the Kentucky Education Reform Act, as the year before the Kentucky Supreme Court determined that the education system of the state was unconstitutional. The Act has brought a number of beneficial changes, but most people agree that there is still a lot of work to be done. The state is divided into 174 school districts with 1,233 public schools. It is estimated that 647,827 students enrolled in 2010. The state has 16 public two year colleges governed by the Kentucky Community and Technical College System, and 8 public four year universities. Four year universities are divided into larger research institutions such as the University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky and smaller, regional colleges.