Part 1 of 3: 12,000 BC–1863
Paleo-Indian Period: Native hunters seek game at salt licks, leaving behind stone tools.
Archaic Period: The human population of Kentucky gradually grows, and specific camps are used for long periods as seasonal hunting bases. The archaeological evidence indicates some agriculture, artistic development, and ceremonial burials.
1,000 BC-1000 AD
Woodland Period: Cultural diversity increases. In present-day Boone County and elsewhere throughout the Ohio Valley, the Adena (500-100 BC) and Hopewell (200 BC-400/500 AD) build complex burial mounds and earthworks.
The Fort Ancient culture develops in Eastern Kentucky. Fort Ancient sites include a mound in Campbell County.
1739 (possibly earlier)
An expedition led by Baron Charles LeMoyne de Longueuil discovers the largest concentration of prehistoric fossils ever found in the Americas at Big Bone Lick. The baron ships some of the giant bones to France, where Benjamin Franklin studies them and declares that elephants once lived in America.
Local trader Robert Smith finds additional bones at Big Bone, confirming Longueil’s discovery.
Christopher Gist, an agent of the Ohio Company, becomes the first white man known to have set foot on the Point—the juncture of the Ohio and Living rivers at what is now Covington.
During the French & Indian (Seven Years) War between the British and the French, most Native American tribes align with the British in hopes that they will stem the tide of white migration west of the Alleghenies. At the end of the war, the Royal Proclamation of 1763 does forbid settlement west of the Appalachian crest. But the proclamation proves impossible to enforce in the face of increasing migration and Britain’s preoccupation with the rising tide of rebellion in its American colonies.
Mary Draper Ingles is captured by the Shawnee along with her sons George and Thomas, her sister-in-law Betty Draper, and others. Their captors bring the group into present-day Kentucky. Mary eventually escapes, and her 850-mile trek back to her home is celebrated in news stories and a dramatic interpretation. She is traditionally held to be the first white woman in Kentucky.
As a reward for his service, French & Indian War veteran Gerhard Muse receives 200 acres at the Point.
In the first Treaty of Fort Stanwix, the Iroquois cede land south of the Susquehanna and Ohio rivers to British authorities in return for a promise that they will be able to hold their ancestral lands in New York.
Lord Dunmore, the last royal governor of Virginia, sends the provincial militia against the Indians of the Northwest Territory. The brief but fierce Lord Dunmore’s War results in a tentative agreement by the Shawnee to stay north of the Ohio River.
1780 and 1782
George Rogers Clark organizes volunteers at the Point before crossing into Ohio to attack the Shawnee. In the second expedition, staged to avenge the Battle of Blue Licks, five Indian towns are destroyed.
The new American government wins more concessions from the Iroquois in the second Treaty of Fort Stanwix, in which the tribe gives up claim to lands in Ohio and western Pennsylvania. But many Native people believe the treaty to be invalid because of the circumstances under which it was signed, and the battle for the territories of the Ohio Valley will rage for nearly 30 more years.
Baptist preacher John Tanner from North Carolina establishes Tanner’s Station (present-day Petersburg), the first settlement in Boone County
John Filson and partners buy land on the north side of the Ohio River, founding what will become Cincinnati as Losantiville—meaning “town opposite the mouth” (of the Licking River).
Thomas Kennedy begins operating a farm, tavern, and ferry at the Point.
James Taylor, a cousin of James Madison, founds Newport.
Kentucky becomes the 15th U.S. state.
Campbell County, Kentucky’s 19th, is created from parts of Scott, Harrison, and Mason counties.
Bullittsburg Baptist Church is founded in the North Bend Bottoms area of Boone County. Now the oldest continuously active church in the county, it still holds services in its 1819 sanctuary.
Boone County is formed from a portion of Campbell County. It is Kentucky’s 30th county.
At the direction of President Thomas Jefferson, who had himself written a scientific paper on the unidentified fossil bones of a giant mammal, Meriwether Lewis stops at Big Bone Lick on his way to meet William Clark. He sends Jefferson a box of bones and a lengthy letter. The animal described in Jefferson’s paper, a giant ground sloth, will eventually be named Megalonyx jeffersonii in his honor.
Newport Barracks is established to supply soldiers for the Indian Wars.
John Grant, James Taylor, and John Breckinridge form a company to extract salt from licks in Northern Kentucky.
Gaines Tavern is built near Walton in Boone County.
German Lutherans from Virginia found the Hopeful Lutheran Church in Boone County.
President Jefferson sends William Clark back to Big Bone Lick in the first organized vertebrate paleontology expedition in the U.S.
John Gano, Thomas Carneal, and Richard Gano purchase land from Thomas Kennedy and lay out a city at the Point. They name it Covington for War of 1812 general Leonard Covington.
The Benjamin Piatt Fowler House is built near Union, and the Anderson Ferry carries its first goods across the Ohio. The ferry is still in operation six miles west of downtown Covington.
The Carneal family builds Elmwood Hall, the first permanent residence at Ludlow in Kenton County.
The Burlington Cotton Factory is built in Covington.
The Kentucky General Assembly establishes the Covington and Lexington Turnpike Road Company, leading to the chartering of Covington by the state. By this time the city has a nail factory, two cotton factories, a sawmill, five tobacco and cigar factories, two distilleries, and a brewery. The population is 1,500.
The Farmers Record and Covington Literary Gazette, believed to be Covington’s first newspaper, begins publication.
Sydney Sherman raises a company of Northern Kentucky volunteers to assist Texas in its struggle for independence from Mexico. The Newport Volunteers (sometimes called the Kentucky Rifles) participate in the Battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 1836. The next day, Newport Volunteer color bearer James Austin Sylvester is largely responsible for the capture of Mexican general Santa Anna.
The first school term is established in Boone County.
Kenton County, Kentucky’s 90th, is created from Campbell County. It is named for Simon Kenton, a frontiersman who explored vast tracts of what is now northern and central Kentucky in the 1770s and 1780s, eventually settling in Maysville.
German immigrants found the community of Camp Springs and the Mother of God church.
The completion of the Covington & Lexington Railroad opens up new Northern markets for Kentucky agricultural products. Cincinnati becomes known as “Porkopolis” because of its concentration of meat-packing plants.
Construction begins on a Covington-Cincinnati bridge designed by John Roebling.
A group of Northern Kentucky slaves, including Margaret Garner, her husband, and their four children, escape across the frozen Ohio River to Cincinnati. But there they are surrounded by authorities, and Garner kills one of her daughters rather than see the child returned to slavery. Dubbed the “modern Medea,” Garner becomes a cause célèbre among abolitionists.
St. Elizabeth’s Hospital opens.
A Confederate invasion of Kentucky leads to the construction of numerous fortifications and batteries. Two brief Civil War skirmishes take place at Florence and at Snow'’s Pond near Walton.
Confederate raider John Hunt Morgan causes panic when he disobeys Gen. Bragg’s orders not to cross the Ohio River, enters Indiana, and skirts Cincinnati.