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Contents:
Program 716

1. honoring Dr. Thomas Walker
2. the Kentucky Vietnam Veterans Memorial
3. historic Jeffersontown
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Bell County

For more information:
• Bell County Historical Museum, 242 N. 20th St., Middlesboro, KY 40965, (606) 242-0005

Producer, videographer, editor: Ernie Lee Martin


The Pioneer’s Pioneer

Dr. Thomas Walker

Ask most people to name an early white explorer of Kentucky, and they’ll come up with Daniel Boone. But Boone actually followed in the footsteps of—and used maps drawn by—Dr. Thomas Walker. In 1750, the wealthy Virginian led an expedition through a gap in the Appalachians into what is now Bell County, Kentucky, spending several weeks scouting out the territory and even constructing a crude cabin near today’s Barbourville. He named the entryway Cumberland Gap.

Walker was one of those 18th-century Renaissance men: physician, surveyor, planter, businessman, land speculator, Virginia legislator, and once even representative to a congress of the Six Nations of the Iroquois. In between, he fathered 12 children of his own and was for a time the guardian of young Thomas, son of a neighbor of his named Peter Jefferson.

During the year 2000, the Bell County Historical Society set out to commemorate the 250th anniversary of Walker’s Kentucky exploration with a specially commissioned book, a symposium and other events, and the construction of an overlook with historical markers.

Watch This Story (7:07)




Franklin County
1,102 Memorial Days is a feature article from Kentucky Living magazine detailing how the memorial was conceived, funded, and built.

• At the Vietnam Veterans Home Page maintained by Bill McBride, you’ll find more photos and a veteran’s moving remembrance of his first visit to the Kentucky memorial.

Producer: Ellen Ballard
Videographer: Frank Simkonis
Editor: Dan Taulbee


Shadows of a War

The Kentucky Vietnam Veterans Memorial

More recent history is the focus of our next segment, a visit to the Kentucky Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Frankfort. On a quiet hill overlooking the capitol, the names of more than 1,100 Kentuckians killed in the Vietnam War are inscribed on granite slabs that form a giant sundial. Each day, the shadow cast by the 25-foot steel gnomon falls on the names of men killed on that date—giving each man a personal “memorial day.”

Designed by Lexington architect Helm Roberts, the memorial also includes a separate slab with the names of Kentuckians still listed as missing in action. The shadow never touches that area. But as the fate of each man is learned, his name will be moved to the date of his death. The MIA stone is finished on both sides in hopes that one day, when all the missing are accounted for, it can be turned over.

The memorial is located on Coffee Tree Road across from the Kentucky Department of Libraries and Archives. Our tour is led by Tom Fugate of the Kentucky Historical Society, which plans to exhibit some of the personal objects left by visitors to the memorial at the nearby Kentucky Military History Museum.

This segment originally appeared in Kentucky Life Program 108.

Watch This Story (5:10)




Jefferson County

For more information:
Jeffersontown Chamber of Commerce, (502) 267-1674
• Jeffersontown Historical Museum, (502) 261-8290

Producer: Connie Offutt
Videographer, editor: Mike Blackburn


A J-Town Jaunt

History in Jeffersontown

In a way, our final segment for this week circles back to the first. When Dr. Thomas Walker first met his neighbors the Jeffersons in Virginia, it probably wouldn’t have occurred to him that one day one of the first three counties in the state he would help open to settlement would be named for the little boy next door. But that’s how things worked out, as Jefferson County in 1790 and then the Town of Jefferson in 1797 were named for Thomas Jefferson—several years before the then governor of Virginia became America’s third president.

Actually, the residents of what is now Jeffersontown called it Brunerstown, after an early homesteader, for years. The city in eastern Jefferson County drew groups of Scots-Irish and then German settlers. By the middle of the 19th century, it also had a substantial African-American population. As host Dave Shuffett learns on his walking tour of “J-town”’s historic district, all of these groups left their marks.

Jeffersontown grew slowly for much of its history, serving mainly as a center of marketing and transportation for agricultural products grown on the surrounding farmland. But the construction of several industrial parks starting in the 1960s and then a major new freeway have brought a population boom. Today, it is one of Kentucky’s fastest-growing cities. Each September, though, it celebrates its roots with the annual Gaslight Festival.

Watch This Story (8:45)


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