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Introduction

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Kentucky ( /kənˈtʌki/ ( About this sound listen) 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 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 Confederate government of Kentucky was a shadow government established for the Commonwealth of Kentucky by a self-constituted group of Southern sympathizers during the American Civil War. The shadow government never replaced the elected government in Frankfort, which had strong Union sympathies. Neither did it gain the support of Kentucky's citizens; its jurisdiction extended only as far as Confederate battle lines in the Commonwealth. Nevertheless, the provisional government was recognized by the Confederate States of America, and Kentucky was admitted to the Confederacy on December 10, 1861.

Bowling Green was designated the Confederate capital of Kentucky, but due to the military situation in the state, the provisional government was exiled and traveled with the Army of Tennessee for most of its existence. For a short time in the autumn of 1862, the Confederate Army controlled Frankfort, the only time a Union capital was captured by Confederate forces. During this occupation, General Braxton Bragg attempted to install the provisional government as the permanent authority in the Commonwealth. However, Union General Don Carlos Buell ambushed the inauguration ceremony and drove the provisional government from the state for the final time. From that point forward, the government existed primarily on paper, and was dissolved at the end of the war.

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Wolf Creek Dam and Lake Cumberland, KY.jpg
Photo credit: A. Aspie
Lake Cumberland is the largest artificial lake, in terms of volume, east of the Mississippi River.

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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.

Did you know...

Thompson and Powell Martyrs Monument

Kentucky Official Symbols

On this day in Kentucky history...

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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Pleasant Hill is the site of a Shaker religious community that was active from 1805 to 1910. Following a preservationist effort that began in 1961, the site, now a National Historic Landmark, has become a popular tourist destination. Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, or Shakertown, as it is known by residents of the area, is located 25 miles (40 km) southwest of Lexington, in Kentucky's Bluegrass region.

On January 1, 1805, with eleven Shaker communities already established in New York and New England, three Shaker missionaries set out to find new converts among the pioneers then pouring into the western lands by way of Cumberland Gap and the Ohio. By August, they had gathered a small group of new adherents to the doctrine of Mother Ann Lee, many of whom had earlier been influenced by the fervent Cane Ridge Revival. In December 1806, forty-four converts of legal age signed a covenant agreeing to mutual support and the common ownership of property.

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William Goebel (January 4, 1856 – February 3, 1900) was an American politician who served as Governor of Kentucky for a few days in 1900 after having been mortally wounded by an assassin the day before he was sworn in. Goebel remains the only state governor in the United States to be assassinated while in office.

A skilled politician, Goebel was well able to broker deals with fellow lawmakers, and equally able and willing to break the deals if a better deal came along. His tendency to use the state's political machinery to advance his personal agenda earned him the nicknames "Boss Bill", "the Kenton King", "Kenton Czar", "King William I", and "William the Conqueror".

Goebel's abrasive personality made him many political enemies, but his championing of populist causes, like railroad regulation, also won him many friends. This conflict of opinions came to a head in the Kentucky gubernatorial election of 1900. Goebel, a Democrat, divided his party with self-serving political tactics at a time when Kentucky Republicans were finally gaining strength, having elected the party's first governor four years previously. These dynamics led to a close contest between Goebel and William S. Taylor. In the politically chaotic climate that resulted, Goebel was assassinated.

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