Louisville, Kentucky, among America’s 30 largest cities, had very small beginnings—only seven acres, in fact. It’s also one of the oldest settlements west of the Appalachian Mountains, and that’s the subject of this Et Cetera.
On May 27, 1778, Colonel George Rogers Clark, 150 soldiers and some 80 settlers established themselves on a tiny island at the head of the Falls of the Ohio, just off the Kentucky shore.
When Clark continued west with his troops in a military campaign, the settlers were left behind. That spring they planted a crop of corn, and thus the isle received its name — Corn Island.
The next year, the settlers moved to the mainland, building a fort which would later become Louisville. This “Fort on Shore” existed on the bank of the Ohio at the foot of 12th Street.
For a while, according to The Encyclopedia of Louisville, Corn Island was still used for agricultural and recreational purposes, such as barbeques and fishing. But by the 1890s little remained of Louisville’s original settlement, due to massive quarrying operations and erosion.
Today the shallow remnants of Corn Island lie beneath the Ohio River, just off the Belvedere.
Most Louisvillians now associate the name with the annual Corn Island Storytelling Festival.
More on Corn Island:
- Louisville (Corn Island) was first surveyed in 1773 by Thomas Bullitt, who called it Dunmore’s Island for the royal governor of Virginia. Louisville was incorporated in 1828.
- According to The Encyclopedia of Louisville, the limestone rock around Corn Island was used for building. This may have included the first paving of several blocks of Main St. in 1813.
- The Encyclopedia of Louisville also states that the surrounding limestone and even Corn Island itself were later excavated because they were of “the proper chemical composition to make natural cement.”
- Program 205
- Biography of filmmaker Tod Browning, a visit to Cave Hill Cemetery, the history of Corn Island, a breathtaking bed & breakfast near Central Park, and David Domine', author of Ghosts of Old Louisville. (#205)