British and French forces battled for control of Kentucky in the mid-1700s, recognizing the value of the fertile land that was once used by Native Americans as a hunting ground.
Legendary frontiersman Daniel Boone blazed a trail through the Cumberland Gap and the British began pouring over the Appalachians in 1775. The state became a battleground during the Revolutionary War, with local Shawnee Indians allying with the crown.
Though a slave state, Kentucky was bitterly divided during the Civil War, with 30, 000 fighting for the Confederacy and 64, 000 for the Union. Both the Union president Abraham Lincoln and Confederacy president Jefferson Davis were Kentucky-born.
After the war, Kentucky built up its economy on railways, tobacco, and coal-mining. Today its motto ‘Unbridled Spirit, ’ reflects the dominance of scenic horse country.