The reader ought to know a bit of what’s coming in this module. First, Kentucky was an offshoot from Virginia. It spent seventeen years as Virginia’s most western counties, before it was “spun off as an independent state after almost eight years of negotiation. Tennessee did not spin off of its mother-state; it broke away and unlike the prodigal son never returned home. Kentucky followed and improved on, actually took leadership of the Virginia-Tidewater approach to politics, political culture and economic development. There is a reason why we teach about the mid-1790’s Kentucky-Virginia Resolutions in our classrooms. They weren’t the Kentucky-Tennessee-Virginia Resolutions for a reason; Tennessee developed its own approach to that nexus, and under folk like Andrew Jackson and James K. Polk it cast its distinctive shadow across the nation. So as far as the “main question goes” the process of settlement in these two states was significantly different, and that alone made each different from the other.

This modules discusses those specific lessons we can glean from Kentucky’s settlement .I discuss three–well, four.

First, since eastern Kentucky (Appalachia today) was almost totally bypassed, remaining essential unsettled) and western along the Mississippi was not able to be sufficiently secured against Indian attack, the state’s central Bluegrass Region became the state’s center of gravity. Today nearly all, excepting Louisville, of the ten largest cities in Kentucky are in its Bluegrass Region. The Bluegrass acquired an early advantage, and save for Louisville its largest city, kept that advantage for going on two hundred and forty years. Kentucky has had only one state capital (Frankfurt, stupid) for its history (not typical at all for east of the Mississippi states)–and that is located in the Bluegrass.

Secondly, the settlement of Kentucky as Virginia’s western counties naturally enough gave Virginians an advantage over residents from other states. The Tidewater political culture and Virginia’s core institutions of governance were transferred to Kentucky counties and Virginia elites found themselves with a head start in acquiring and amassing land–for plantations, merchant and professional, or for yeoman farming. Before this chapter is over the reader will learn these elites will write the first state constitution, and impose their views and institutions on the numerical majority of the state’s population who were overwhelming Scots-Irish or sympathetic to the culture and way of life. The demographic reversal of political power with the state’s dominant  political culture combined with the politics and economics of a land rush, driving non-Virginia elites west and south and pushing them deeper into the isolated hinterland. An elite-mass gap was created early on in Kentucky’s settlement process–and was not addressed until 1799 when a second constitutions corrected some of the imbalances of the first. Again future chapter modules will discuss all that. Tennessee approached its elite-mass gap in a totally different manner.

The third lesson is that Virginia transferred its reliance on counties as the principal unit of sub-state governance, and empowered those counties to develop autonomously from its state government, which in turn looked downward for inspiration and direction as to the initiatives in its state-level agenda. If all politics is local, Kentucky politics is local defined as counties. Today, the very largest Kentucky cities are city-county in structure–and that isn’t an accident. Counties have had a major influence and impact on Kentucky economic development. Tennessee despite less direct Virginia impact, did incorporate much of Virginia’s reliance on county government, but that was related to the development of two rival sub-regions (east and Middle Tennessee) which jostled for dominance at the state level.

Finally, embraced as an accepted reality because of previous modules, it is not seriously discussed, but is a lesson learned from the settlement period: the importance and impact of site- control in the Settlement-Conquest of these Indian-controlled lands. Indian wars mattered to the pace and character of trans-Appalachian political and economic development. Kentucky, as a whole, was more fortunate on this matter, and according enjoyed an advantage over Tennessee in the long Settlement-Conquest period.

Early Kentucky Settlement as a Virginia County

Migration into Kentucky continued despite active and chronic Indian raids. But the key word in this last sentence was “raids”. By the early 1780’s, the struggle for life and death of these fort-stations had somewhat abated with the successful federal-led (George Rogers Clark) invasion of Indiana/Ohio. Louisville, and western Kentucky around the Mississippi River was the most vulnerable, and site control over that area was questionable until after 1800.But Boonesborough settled in 1775 was besieged by Shawnee Chief Blackfish in 1778–encouraged by the British and directly supported by sending French-Canadian “Mingo” soldiers. The siege lasted for a few weeks, and Blackfish withdrew–in favor a continued raiding as opposed to siege. For the Bluegrass Region, Native American raids were chronic, albeit intermittent. After the battle of Blue Licks in 1782, the Bluegrass Region was not the central battleground in the series of Indian wars that dominate the period until the end of War of 1812.

The first Kentucky frontier, and the first part of the region to be settled, was the central part [of today’s] Bluegrass region. It would also be the scene of the bloodiest battles with Native Americans…. In the first fifteen years of the English settlement of Kentucky about 73,000 people arrived, and 1,500 or more died in conflicts [1775-1790]…. In one year in the area around Louisville [about] one-eighth of the population … were killed or captured by the Indians [1]

The relative security of the Bluegrass, and it was relative, fostered settlement and more importantly was a precondition for its growth. Kentucky became the first preferred settlement area, and the state was settled easier and more rapidly than Tennessee. Middle Tennessee–and Watauga–were battleground geographies. Lexington and Kentucky enjoyed first advantage–with Tennessee and Nashville only catching up by 1820.

Urban Growth–Boonesborough always was more of a way-station on the way to somewhere else–a station eighteen miles away proved more hospitable for settlement. Called Lexington when it was first founded in 1775, the city became the early hub of the central Kentucky Bluegrass Region. From the beginning, however, multiple small “station-forts” were settled, and population dispersed through the Bluegrass. Bluegrass settlements were minimally populated, for example a decade later in 1800, Lexington registered less than 900 residents. The reader ought to keep in mind that despite our image of mighty cities, these frontier settlements were minuscule by today’s standards, and remained so throughout the Early Republic. Lexington in 1860 was only about 9,300 urban souls. When we think of rapid urbanization, the so-called “instant cities”, we shall find that is characteristic of far western, mostly Pacific coast cities.

Lexington’s period of growth was a hundred years after the Civil War,, between 1960 and 1980 when it grew by 72& and 86% each decade, and broke through 100,000 population and then through 200,00. Kentucky Big City urbanization did not follow the pattern of Northeast or Upper Midwest Big Cities. This style of urbanization follows a pattern similar to Virginia (excepting Richmond), and North Carolina, suggesting the Tidewater-settled geographies, typically urbanized to major cities after World War II. In this module, we are faced with a curious celebrity status afforded to Lexington, which is referred to in this time period, as the “Philadelphia of the (First South) West”; its 1800 population of 1,795, exceeded Pittsburgh, and was twice that of Cincinnati. Philadelphia County in 1800 was about 81,000–the largest in the nation and the national capital. Do the math. Lexington was never Philadelphia, and was not yet a national urban center. Still, let’s not go too far in the other direction. Lexington, on its own dime, began to function as a responsible urban community previous to 1800.

Lexington was not only the mercantile center of the [pre-1800 First South]west, but its social and cultural leader as well. By 1800 the town government had removed the ‘sheep and hog pens’ from the streets and began their paving, fire protection had been put on an organized basis, and a primitive police force had been established. … Transylvania Academy became the first university in the West. Two newspapers, a public library, debating clubs, musical and drama societies, and a half-dozen churches [1a]

So when this history refers to agriculture as the state’s economic base, one must, I think, understand the population mostly resided in the hinterland, surrounding  the small urban settlements. The multiple early stations laid the foundation for a Kentucky populated by small and medium-sized urban areas. In 1780, Louisville, Washington, and Limestone/Maysville were incorporated, followed by Lexington in 1781 (founded in June, 1775). In 1782 the state’s population was estimated at about 12,000. By 1784 it was about 24,000, and the first (1790) federal census found 70,000 occupants. By later standards this was initially a muted land rush, but one that gathered considerable momentum as it continued through the 1790’s. Lexington in this period proved fortunate of all the urban centers, as all trails, roads flowed through it–even though Lexington is the only major trans-Appalachian settlement in this period that was directly not on a river and there were no roads as we understand them today.

From its initial settlement Lexington became the state’s first transportation hub. Lexington’s economic base tilted early on by its serendipitous function as a trading and, more importantly, a migration hub. Louisville’s growth, on the other hand, stunted by chronic Indian attacks, took off only after 1818, when using DTIS it built a canal around which Ohio River trade could pass onto the Mississippi River [2]. Since all trails led through Lexington, and water transportation, being more expensive, if faster, than overland, Lexington benefited from an improved Wilderness Road which allowed wagons, the POV of the day, and more substantial cargoes to roll in more cheaply.

Demographic/Ethnic Mix–State of previous residence provides a deceptive indicator of the nature of the population and its political culture. The reality, asserted by Clark is that trans-Appalachian settlers in this period were overwhelmingly  “immigrants either of the first or second generation from England, Scotland, Ireland or Huguenots, and Germany“–most of which had settled in Virginia in the course of their chain migration. Today, we classify most as Scots-Irish, and numerically that group certainly constituted a majority of the population. In any case a study of Kentucky’s 1790 tax rolls found that “English” totaled about 52%, Scots-Irish 25%, Irish (probably Scots-Irish) 9%, Welsh almost 7%, and Germans about 5% [3]   While the link between ethnicity and state of origin is complex at best, Virginians probably constituted a numerical majority of the state’s pre-statehood population.

But numbers can be deceiving because a goodly number of second generation had been raised in Virginia, and were offspring of families that had done relatively well. Having been raised in Virginia. they had acclimated to the frontier, and had skills suitable to middle-class yeoman agriculture. Also from Virginia were many scions of Virginia’s plantation, merchant, entrepreneurs, and lawyers. With more resources than most hardscrabble first generation, Virginia-born settlers made themselves more at home in what was a Virginia county after 1772. Familiar with Virginia law and institutions, and having contacts with those able to access Virginia elites former Virginians had a leg up on the average land rush settler of the period. Since Kentucky survey and platting fell into the political limbo that was post- 1763 Virginia–and the 1774 Revolutionary War came early to Virginia’s political elites the land rush became a legal and land claims nightmare. Despite Virginia’s genuine interest in western expansion, the populist and elite dissatisfaction with British rule in Virginia sucked much of the air out of its policy agenda, Virginia failed in its handling of the migration and settlement. Nevertheless, it was Virginians–especially their lawyers and plantation owners who best navigated through the chaos. They became the state’s first elites.

Clark outlines a migration succession process in which the original migrants were frontiersmen or “adventurers” (other historians are less kind alluding to them as “drifters”) who were not inclined to “settle down and farm”. Drawn to Kentucky by Boone’s published biography, many got taken advantage of by both Philadelphia-based land speculators, and very corrupt local schemes. As one would expect, the unsophisticated suffered the most, and in desperation many simply squatted on a desirable parcel, and, if at all, carelessly filed a poorly defined land claim. Indifferent to a permanent settlement, their farming practices, scorch and burn, quickly left an impoverished, temporarily exhausted soil.  Many failed, others got wanderlust, and whatever the reason a constant stream of parcels would come on the market [3a].

New settlers moving on after a short period of homesteading “were soon supplemented, almost entirely, by planters from Virginia, who sent agents into the new settlements to buy small farms which they combined into plantations. This forced squatters to move westward to new fields, and leave the ever-expanding Kentucky settlements to newcomers who wished to establish permanent homes. Daniel Boone, the chief representative of [this first wave of settlers] was typical of this restless and ever-moving pioneer class” [4]. As a land speculator himself, Boone lost whatever wealth he amassed, and struggled with poverty until his death. Boom and bust is a characteristic reliably associated with land rush settlement.

Many of the large estates of central Kentucky were created from numerous smaller claims, for the purchases of larger plantations, in most instances, were unwilling to brave the rigors of the frontier [i.e. Virginia plantation owners through agents assembled plantations in Kentucky by purchasing the sales of smaller parcels]. They waited until the plantation houses were completed before moving their families to the West. Overseers and slaves were sent ahead to clear land, build houses, and transport the family property from east of the mountains to the new home. Kentucky … [became] a haven  for Virginia’s younger sons. Under the primogeniture laws of Virginia, older sons inherited their father’s estates, and younger sons were forced to seek their fortune elsewhere. George Rogers Clark was [for example] a second son who sought a new home in the West [5].

As an examples, Lexington attracted a heavy core of the Virginian migration, particularly that of , who came in from Watauga-based routes. In 1798, a local Lexington census revealed that 421 slaves and less than 1,500 whites constituted its population [6]. Slavery came early to Kentucky, and the Bluegrass Region, unlike Tennessee’s Watauga, was fertile ground for plantation agriculture. At the same time, Virginia awarded to its Revolutionary War soldiers ample land grants, and in the post-1783 period many of these matured veterans resettled in the Bluegrass Region, and were of a nature to establish a permanent settlement for a household long deferred or neglected. Whoever they were they encountered serious land price inflation, and first come-first served gave an advantaged to the earliest, and which, for some afforded opportunity for resale that permitted upgrade and or the accumulation of wealth. The absence of adequate land claims/surveys, discussed below, quickly gathered such momentum that it rivaled Native American raiding as their most serious problem du jour.

Kentucky’s pattern or process of land assembly, combined with the savage and persistent Cherokee War proved critical to the distinctive foundation of elites in each states. In Tennessee, land companies operated by North Carolina political leaders assembled large parcels of interior lands by hook and more likely crook, defended those lands with military leaders such as Sevier and Robertson (who themselves were land speculators), and over two decades installed, fabricated or devised a political organization that “managed” the migration settlement process that subsequently followed after the Cherokee had been “pacified”, and dominated and set up the policy system of the new state upon statehood. The process in Kentucky, where Indian-fighting was less intense, and much more quickly reduced to levels where development could occur, was different and speculative land companies played less a role, freeing politics and elites from the stain of wholesale conflict of interest. Kentucky elites retained much of the aura of their Virginia counterparts.

By the time the second population surge began in 1784, Virginia elites had acquired the best land, amassed huge acreage for sale to migrants, aggregated substantial plantations and land claims, leaving marginal lands available for the newcomers–many of whom unable to find parcels, squatted, or moved westward. What we are seeing is a settlement “process” that fueled both a rising and increasingly prosperous elite, and a hardscrabble or struggling yeoman bi-modal agricultural mass. That is the core dynamic relevant to Kentucky’s elite-mass gap. In the short-term at least Kentucky-Virginia elites established a dominant position in the state’s drive to statehood–and they defined that statehood to their advantage and culture. In the post 17980’s First Southwest, plantation elites, successful merchants, professionals and entrepreneurs  mostly influenced by Virginia Tidewater/Second Great Awakening values and legacy, coexisted in small isolated communities with a more homogeneous, often hardscrabble migrant population, the Scots-Irish.

As we shall see in later modules, the land assembly process in the Northwest Ordinance states did not follow this pattern–and more critically an ethnically different population with different cultural values set up their own distinctive policy systems–more open to a non-agricultural economic base. The land and settlement processes that we see in Kentucky and Tennessee, each different from the other, but both mired in an all-consuming series of Native American conflicts, will over the next half-century repeat itself, with a Cotton Belt-variation, in the post War of 1812 “Rise of the Cotton Belt”.

The first major test of Kentucky’s elite-mass  “peaceful coexistence” would arise in the drive for statehood–in the form of the state’s first constitution. The writing of that fundamental document, the core of the new initial state policy system reflected an incipient political polarization between Federalists and Jefferson’s D-R  partisan atmosphere. Tennessee, a mere four years later,  was less fortunate–politics shaped its constitution, less political cultures. Virginia-inclined still Federalist elites wrote their constitution and minimized that wanted by non-elite masses. The frustration that the first constitution left behind, resulted in a second constitution seven years after, a constitution that better incorporated the wishes of its “common people”.

The Kentucky elite-mass division superficially resembled in its elite-mass structure to that developed in Tennessee. But the more intensified war with Native Americans, the more restrained rate of population settlement, and four more years of partisan polarization–not to mention the lack of an institutional and cultural inheritance acquired from its mother-state–produced a decidedly different policy system than Kentucky’s.

Institutional Inheritance From Virginia

As Virginia’s “Kentucky County”, Kentucky inherited much of the Virginia Tidewater political institutions, economy, politics, elite values–and developed its own distinctive style in dealing with its non-elite populations. Two institutional inheritances stand out: a rule of Virginia law that extended directly to the citizens and residents in the western counties, and the centrality of the county to the state policy system’s sub-state governance. That the rule of law was exercised by county-level judges and officials only reinforced the centrality of counties in the Kentucky style of policy system.

When Virginia first extended its county government framework to Kentucky in 1772 and 1776, “the trans-Appalachian frontier had its first official government” [Rohrbough]. Carried over from Merrie olde England, the frontier residents recognized the county as an old and familiar institution. Virginia’s huge multiplicity of counties, each a small and approachable-sized geography, rendered government more personal, accessible, and given gossip-filled small town cultures, in its strange way more transparent [7]–and sort of New England town fabric. County elites operated on two levels, as county residents and decision-makers and as the county’s connecting link to higher levels of politics and the economy. Counties were ideal for the dispersed and diffused agricultural hinterland lacking meaningful urban centers.

Virginia’s constitution authorized the election of several county-level officials. The Virginia governor reserved the right to appoint such other officials as was deemed necessary, and maintained control over the county-based militia companies and regiments. Two non-voting county representatives were admitted to participate in the state legislature (Daniel Boone was one). Virginia’s laws and court system was similarly imposed and were set up in the western counties.  Because distance and serious hardship limited contact with the state legislature, Virginia in 1783, authorized three special functional court systems in the Kentucky counties. Kentucky counties enjoyed counties with expanded functionality and local control than Virginia counties.

Kentucky counties were governed by a legislatively appointed a five member “county court”, which is not a legal court, but a legislature. Courts, also called courts, which administered the rule of law were a separate branch–often with overlapping membership with the “county court” require the reader to distinguish between “courts” with very different role and functions. To make matters even worse, the “county court” set up several lesser “courts”, a blend of a (executive) department and a court of law, that would travel a circuit and hear cases/make decisions within its policy function–sort of a regulatory agency. As far as ED went, Virginia delegated considerable powers over the policy area to the “county court”.Obviously they levied taxes and paid the bills annually (i.e. budget/local financial system), but county court-legislatures also were responsible for construction/maintenance of roads, support for the poor, public regulation of taverns (services) and gristmills (manufacturing), admission to its legal bar, and exercised day-today control over its local militia, which was not only its army but its police.

When Virginia imposed its rule of law, it was applied primarily by county-level legal courts. The courts of law (justice of the peace) performed functions associated with the rule of law in conformity to the state system. Membership, with the county legislative court, was often overlapping–and county legal court/justice of the peace tenure was” till life do us part”. I cannot understate the importance of seventeen years of Virginia rule of law to Kentucky development–Tennessee had none of that, and the rule of law in Tennessee will amaze the reader–let’s call it frontier justice. The institutions relevant to political development, on which economic growth and development can be based, are a major, if poorly appreciated, inheritance from mother-state succession.

Relating to  economic development,  a Kentucky county’s “land court” (the first established was in 1779) adjudicated and administered vital land claims pertinent to the county. Land, the reader remembers, is the primary cluster in a frontier economic base. It was these land courts that administered the 1779 Land Act which reconciled previous land tenure with land claims going forward. While overwhelmed and much disliked, whatever coherence Kentucky achieved in land ownership in this period was due to these courts. Unfortunately, the 1779 Land Act (imposed by the Virginia Legislature) was an outright disaster.

The consequences of that land act would haunt Kentucky politics and economic development for that matter, for the next several generations. ” Mann Butler one of Kentucky’s earliest historians observed that “never was a measure of legislation so fruitful of curses and calamities to any community of people as the land law of Kentucky. It has proven a perfect Pandora’s box to Kentucky, constantly tricking her industrious and enterprising citizens out of the fruits of their brave and heady exertions[8]. Whatever else foul one could claim about Tennessee’s land policy, one could relatively easily file a legal land claim and sell the land. Looking back two hundred years, it is hard to fathom that this distinction in land policy would exert such an effect on economic development as it did. If nothing else, this issue would be Kentucky’s number one domestic issue for two decades after it achieved statehood.

Because Virginia had not provided for a systematic survey prior to settlement, land titles in Kentucky were in a chaotic condition that supported lawyers for generations to come. An anonymous letter … published in Maryland Journal of April 4, 1786 [stated] ‘Whoever purchases there  is sure to purchase a lawsuit’. Victims of land disputes often blamed the state [Virginia] government for their plight. A special Land Court held eight terms in various Kentucky towns in 1779-80 and rendered decisions in over 1,400 cases, but these were only some of the disputed titles… Many Kentuckians became convinced that their interests would be served best by a new state government that was located in Kentucky [9]

What is most interesting is that counties–and the formation of new counties, was how Virginia (and Kentucky as a state) dealt with migration and population growth. Government and policy systems could catch up to expanding territories, and establish fairly quickly responsible local government.

In 1780, Kentucky County was split into three counties (Fayette, Lincoln and Jefferson). This began the practice of splitting off counties as population growth warranted. The drive to split from a larger county was generated by local request, not by state standards, politics or process. For seventeen years “Kentucky” counties were by default the predominant structural vehicle around which Kentucky’s drive to statehood evolved. They became the default “electoral district” for delegates to the uncountable number of state conventions involved in its statehood process–and for its constitutional convention– as well as county governments being the day-to-day government of trans-Appalachian Kentuckians.

Virginia state government was, by then standards, far, far away–so far that even if a Kentuckian wanted to complain to state leaders it physically was not practicable to do so. That created a gap between Virginia and Kentucky–a frustration. In particular, Virginia law and its constitution created a policy system that did not work well in a territory under the threat of constant and violent Indian attack. The weak governor, super-legislature that resulted from Virginia’s 1776 revolution against the British King, meant in Kentucky’s real life that the Kentucky County militia could not mobilize or chase Indian raiders beyond county lines–without the Virginia Governor’s approval–and the Governor previous to 1781 did not believe he had that power in the first place. In any event, approval could easily take a month each way to request and receive such an approval. After one Indian raid went badly awry, Kentucky started its drive to statehood. The first constitution created in Kentucky (later significantly altered) created what was arguably the strongest governor found in the United States, among other features–intended in part to remedy Virginia’s weak governor.

Today Kentucky has 120 counties, the third most in the nation (behind Texas and Georgia). Strong county government was a dramatic departure from that adopted later by the neighboring Northwest Territory state, Ohio, which centered on the (New England) town/township, and which relied on weak counties with limited powers and scope of service. The heritage of that early structural empowerment persists  Using 2019 statistics, states with the most counties (leaving aside top state with the most counties (Texas), the next ten states -with no exceptions can trace their heritage to Tidewater Virginia input into their constitution (states that were duly influenced besides our two were North Carolina, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana–and Ohio–and central states such as Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, and Nebraska). Virginia has (including is independent cities) the second largest number, followed by Kentucky (120), with Tennessee’s mere 95 in the lower range. The national average BTW is 66. We can see how, and how subtly the empowerment and reliance upon the county was incorporated into both states. Is will not be a surprise to us when we get there in the 1950’s, that Nashville will consolidate city-county, Louisville will attempt the same, and Lexington will consolidate with Fayette County.

The twelve states with the fewest counties (seemingly, but not actually, one exception, Arizona–whose initial constitution was written by Yankee) hail from the transcontinental Yankee Diaspora–with southern New England enjoying an almost non-existent county level of government.

What we see is the Tidewater’s chief structural export was the reliance on a great number of geographically small, but capacity-empowered and semi-autonomous county-level policy system that endures to the present day [10].

The point of all this detail is simple as it is momentous: the structure of the urban governance/policy system imposed on Kentucky was that of tidewater Virginia. Virginia state government, it should be noted was not particularly strong or powerful, and the thrust of its politics fostered limited government at the state level, where log-rolling or outright rivalries between sub-regions and urban centers was its chief dynamic. Virginia state government tended therefore to rely on active county involvement in the early phases of policy-making (problem identification, agenda-setting, definition and formulation)–and implementation was also entrusted to counties as well, rather than to a state bureaucracy. Usually, the state would enter the picture only when pressured to do so by county-level political forces. Tennessee also followed along the lines of Kentucky, and, in contrast to much of what characterized coastal states, a ‘southwestern” pattern of sub-state dominated policy-making, using counties as it chief unit of government evolved.

The distinctions sensitive to conflicts of interest and personal self interest were fluid and opportunistic in the early years of the Early Republic, which given the strength of local populism, seemingly led to a bi-modal social-economic-political balanced of power at the local level. That the two–so completely opposite–could coexist, I suspect was due to the diffusion of populism into individual, scattered, remote and inaccessible yeoman/hardscrabble agricultural households, and secondly to a reluctance on the part of populists to inject themselves into policy-making until events  to the detriment of their economic interests or threatened more or less directly their “way of life” raised emotions.

Here in the First Southwest we see for the first time, state systems which decentralized much policy-making to the county level, gave rise to the development of local elites, loosely organized at first, and then into more formal courthouse cabals, which set the tone for local governance. Through elections to the state legislature and its appointment of key local positions, local elites could bypass counties,  and able to pursue initiatives 180 percent opposed to the general wishes of a dispersed, semi-isolated, apolitical populist local majority. The key to holding this tension-filled bi-modal balance of power and status together during the Early Republic was, a propensity of Scots-Irish to relocate, the fragility of hardscrabble homesteads, and the ability of county elites to maintain the loyalty of yeoman homesteads that remained, grew in size and prosperity so that they were the middle-class of an agricultural economic base. The populist-elite gap required constant attention by elites–and that attention, competence, propensity to fairness proved uneven at its very best.


[1] James  C. Klotter & Freda C. Klotter, Concise History of Kentucky (University Press of Kentucky, 2008), p. 21.

[1a] Richard C. Wade, the Urban Frontier (University of Chicago Press, 1959),  p. 21.

[2] Thomas D. Clark, A History of Kentucky (the Jesse Stuart Foundation, 1988),  p. 76.

[3] Lowell H. Harrison, Kentucky’s Road to Statehood (University Press of Kentucky, 1992), pp.7-9.

[3a] There are various conceptual descriptions of this incremental settlement process. Certainly the most “impactful” was that outlined by Frederick Jackson Turner. His process consisted of several stages: the first, of hunter and explorer, followed by the fur traders and cattle pens and miners. Hardscrabble or subsistence agriculture followed, and in turn it was replaced by the yeoman or plantation farmer who brought with them modern economic, social, religious and political institutions. Turner’s stress of the importance of the “Frontier” developed as he extended this process into the socialization and development of the American personality and/character. See, Frederick Jackson Turner, The Frontier in American History (New York, 1921)–see p. 12.

[4] Thomas D. Clark, a History of Kentucky (the Jesse Stuart Foundation, 1988), p. 65.

[5] Thomas D. Clark, a History of Kentucky (the Jesse Stuart Foundation, 1988), p. 65.

[6] Richard C. Wade, the Urban Frontier, p. 20.

[7]  Malcolm J. Rohrbough, Trans-Appalachian Frontier, p.60

[8] Quoted in Lowell H. Harrison, Kentucky’s Road to Statehood, p. 11; Thomas D. Clark, a History of Kentucky (the Jesse Stuart Foundation, 1988), pp. 64-7.

[9] Lowell H. Harrison, Kentucky’s Road to Statehood, p. 16.

[10] .Because, North Carolina had earlier incorporated Virginia’s county/court system into its state constitution, Tennessee followed, second-handedly– along the lines of Virginia. See also, Malcolm J. Rohrbough, Trans-Appalachian Frontier, p.62