Lexington History – Brief Outline

  • Lexington was first settled in 1779 with the construction of its first blockhouse.
  • A stockade followed where settlers could live and keep livestock at night.
  • By 1787, Lexington had a population of 350 and consisted of approximately 50 houses, mostly constructed out of square-hewn logs, and several stores and taverns. Although it was without a navigable stream, it became the center of a growing network of roads radiating into the surrounding country. However, lest you think it was anything fancy, stumps still remained in Main Street and hogs rooted freely in the area.
  • Lexington was always in conflict with the Shawnee who resided in southern Ohio and several tribes along the Wabash (Wyandottes, Miamis, etc.). There was tension between the settlers and the Native Americans until 1794 and possibly through the War of 1812.
  • Goods came from Philadelphia and Baltimore via Pittsburgh down the Ohio River and then via the Maysville Road. Average travel time to the east coast was 40 days although longer in winter.
  • Specie, or hard money, was scarce; barter was the normal means of exchange. Furs, butter, tallow, cheese, eggs, chickens, cured meats, home-woven cloth, hemp and tobacco were taken in exchange for finished products and articles such as tea, coffee, and spices.  Beaver skins provided the most popular standard unit of value.  Continental currency was almost worthless.
  • Divided into three counties (Fayette, Jefferson, and Lincoln), Kentucky petitioned Virginia for statehood for several reasons: (1) they couldn’t call out militia to combat the threat of Native American invasion or to follow them across the Ohio River without permission from Richmond; (2) the hardships of travel discouraged political representation; (3) it hampered law enforcement and trial. In 1792, Kentucky achieved statehood.  Lexington failed to become the capital of Kentucky because residents of Frankfort were willing to provide more land and money to bring the new legislature there.