Kentucky History Trivia

Kentucky Countryside

Who allegedly committed his first bank robbery at the Southern Bank in Russellville, on March 20, 1868?

Answer: Jesse James AKA the James-Younger Gang

While Frank and Jesse James were born in Missouri, they had roots that ran deep in Kentucky because both of their parents were born here. After the Civil War, Frank and Jesse headed for Kentucky because of friends and family. They arrived armed with not only weapons but with Confederate guerrilla warfare skills gained during the war. Skills they used on March 20, 1868.

Frank and Jesse James / Photo Credit:

On this day, six men walked into Russellville’s Southern Bank of Kentucky (then known as the Nimrod Long Banking Co.), asking for change for a 50-dollar bill. When the cashier became nervous, one of the men pulled a gun and ran for the door. Gunfire was returned landing in the wall. Mr. Nimrod, the bank owner, was shot and wounded during the exchange. The gang ran for the back door, but not before grabbing $9,000, with $3,000-$5,000 worth of gold and silver. The gang then rode out terrorizing the citizens along the way.

Bank Heist Mural / Photo Credit: Tom Rizzo

It is believed that those six men included Frank and Jesse James and the Younger brothers, four infamous outlaws from Jackson County, Missouri.

This daylight bank heist was the first for the gang and the third in U.S. history.

Today, the former bank is a home with the added features of two bank vaults!

To learn more about the gang: and

What military engagement on January 10, 1862, prevented Confederate troops from advancing up the Big Sandy Valley to the Ohio River?

Answer: Battle of Middle Creek

By January 1862, the Civil War was closing in on Kentucky. It was the 9th most populous state at the time, and President Lincoln wanted to keep the state in the Union. His plan led to the Battle of Middle Creek near Paintsville in Eastern Kentucky.

The phrase “brother against brother” couldn’t have been more true during this battle.

On January 10, 1862, “Men of the 14th Kentucky Infantry, U.S.A. and the 22nd Kentucky Infantry, U.S.A., charged up the steep hillsides overlooking Middle Creek and engaged in hand-to-hand combat with men of the 5th Kentucky Infantry, C.S.A.”

The much-needed Union victory brought attention to the not-so-well-known colonel, James A. Garfield. This battle kick-started his military career eventually leading him to the White House and becoming the 20th President of the United States.

Colonel James A. Garfield

The Confederate retreat that occurred following the battle did the opposite for Brigadier General Humphrey Marshall. Instead of receiving accolades, Marshall’s leadership and competency were questioned casting a shadow over his military career.

Brigadier General Humphrey Marshall, CSA

To read more about this battle:

What was the 1st incorporated town in Kentucky?

Answer: It depends on who you ask!

Many people would think Harrodsburg, KY. While it was the first settlement west of the Alleghenies, it was NOT incorporated until 1836!

Lebanon, KY was the first incorporated town, dating back to 1784. However, we are NOT talking about the Lebanon, KY we know today. The Lebanon, KY that incorporated in 1784 had a name change in 1790. That Lebanon became Georgetown, in honor of George Washington. Making Georgetown, KY the 1st town to be incorporated.

However, If you want the 1st incorporated town that didn’t have a name change, your answer is Washington, KY, incorporated in 1786. Washington was a booming town full of many firsts until around the 1840s. At that time, Maysville began to see major growth due to it being directly along the Ohio River. In 1990, Maysville annexed Washington and it is now called the “Old Washington Historic District.”

Both Lebanon (now Georgetown) and Washington were incorporated when Kentucky was a county of Virginia.

If you want a town that was incorporated when Kentucky was a state, you’d turn your attention to 2 towns, both incorporated in 1793. These towns are Shepherdsville and Winchester. Both are still independent towns today and have never changed their name. (They also beat Harrodsburg by a long shot.)

So, what do you think? Who should get the title of the first incorporated town?

What Kentucky town is named in honor of the commander of the first ship to arrive at Jamestown, VA in 1607?

Answer: Admiral Christopher Newport

In 1795, a man by the name of James Taylor established a small town along the Ohio River. Surprisingly, he did not name this town after himself. (Which worked out well, since the town of Taylorsville was established just shortly after that, in 1799.) Taylor, instead, named his town Newport after Admiral Christopher Newport, who led and co-founded the first English settlement at Jamestown, Virginia. Taylor was a native of Virginia and therefore chose to honor Newport by naming his town after him.

How many counties did Kentucky have when it was admitted to the union in 1792?

Answer: There were 9 counties when Kentucky was admitted to the union in 1792.

  • In 1776, Virginia’s General Assembly created Kentucky County.
  • In 1780, Kentucky County was divided into 3 counties; Jefferson, Lincoln, and Fayette.
  • In 1785, Nelson County was created from Jefferson County.
  • In 1786, three more counties were created:
  • Bourbon County from Fayette
  • Mercer County from Lincoln
  • Madison County from Lincoln
  • In 1789, 2 more counties were created:
  • Mason County from Bourbon
  • Woodford County from Fayette

Kentucky continued to create new counties up through 1912, ending with 120 total counties. The reason Kentucky ended up with so many counties was due to travel time to the county seat.

“The need for more counties had a pragmatic value in the early days of the commonwealth. People lived in isolated communities or on farms far removed from the county seats. With the huge counties of early settlement days, convenience to the seat of county government meant an arduous, and often dangerous journey that could take days. By splitting the counties into ever-smaller entities would alleviate these travel difficulties.” – Kentucky Secretary of State

To read more about our Kentucky counties and their formations:…/Pages/countyformationchart.aspx and…/articles/Documents/Counties.pdf

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