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Early years of the 19th century


Tobacco farmers
Tobacco farmers

In the early years of the 19th century, Kentuckians shared the particularly strong anti-British feeling that was prevalent along the Western frontier. As United States-British relations became increasingly strained, Kentuckians, most notably U.S. Congressman Henry Clay, became ardent advocates of war against Britain. During the subsequent War of 1812 (1812-1815), Kentucky contributed more than its quota of soldiers to the U.S. military forces.

Politically the state played an important role in national affairs, with Clay three times a presidential candidate, Richard M. Johnson a vice president, and numerous others serving as Cabinet officers or congressional leaders.

The last Native American claims to Kentucky lands were eliminated in 1818 with what is called the Jackson Purchase. In this transaction, former Governor Shelby and General Andrew Jackson bought the Chickasaw claim to lands in western Kentucky and western Tennessee. The Kentucky portion of the purchase now forms eight counties.

Economic Development, 1800-1860


Kentucky’s economic growth during the first half of the 19th century was marked by the development of large-scale commercial agriculture, especially the growing of hemp and tobacco, and of trade and manufacturing. This economic growth was accompanied, and in part spurred, by the state’s rapid increase in population. The state’s population rose from 220,955 in 1800 to 687,917 in 1830 and to 1,155,684 in 1860.

The spread of commercial farming across central and western Kentucky during the pre-Civil War era was largely responsible for the excessive cutting down of forests in these areas. Tobacco farmers in particular tended to clear new areas for cultivation each year, with little regard to the value of the timber, which they often burned, or to the subsequent increase in soil erosion.

In the meantime, eastern Kentucky remained primarily an area of subsistence farming. During the decades preceding the Civil War, many commercial farmers in Kentucky used black slaves for labor, particularly on hemp and tobacco farms. Initially, flatboats and keelboats carried Kentucky products downstream to New Orleans. After 1810 steamboats gradually came to be the principal carriers of commercial goods on the Mississippi River system. The advent of the steamboat gave impetus to trade and consequently to commercial agriculture in Kentucky. Louisville, on the Ohio River, developed as Kentucky’s principal trade center. Although a system of private toll roads was built in Kentucky before 1860, there was comparatively little railroad construction until after the Civil War. The only major railroad completed before 1860 was the line built by the Louisville & Nashville Railroad between Louisville and Nashville, Tennessee. "Kentucky" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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