History of Kentucky Governors

Kentucky Governors and Elections

Kentucky's First Three Govenors 

       The purpose of starting this website is to blog about Kentucky's 57 Governors during this Gubenatorial Election Year of 2011.  As of the first of February, it is my intention to cover one to three past Governors of Kentucky each week for the 40 or so weeks until the November 2011 Election.

       The week of Jan 31st through Feb 4th I intend to cover Governors Shelby, Garrard and Greenup.

       Some interesting facts about Kentucky Governors--

           GENERALS-5              

               Shelby

               Scott

               Adair

               Thomas Bramlette

                Simon Bolivar Buckner-KY Militia; CSA

           DIED IN OFFICE--4

                George Madison

                John Breathitt

                 James Clark

                William Goebel

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  Isaac Shelby -KY's First & Fifth Governor

Isaac Shelby

ISAAC SHELBY

1750-1826

1792-1796 (1st Term)

Like the new nation, Kentucky chose a war hero and someone whose name would be used for cities and counties throughout the United States to be its first Chief Executive. General Isaac Shelby was the hero of the Battle of King’s Mountain during the Revolutionary War. (King’s Mountain is near Blacksburg, South Carolina.) Shelby was unanimously elected Kentucky’s first Governor by the “electors” as set forth in the First Constitution of Kentucky two weeks prior to Kentucky’s admission to the Union on June 1, 1792 as the 15th State.

Shelby was born near Hagerstown, Maryland in December 11, 1750.Prior to moving to Kentucky, he lived in western Virginia near present-day Bristol, Virginia-Tennessee. He initially came to Kentucky due to a 1,400 acre land grant in the late 1770s.

In addition to his military service, Shelby had served in the legislatures of Virginia and North Carolina.

The capitol building in which Shelby was elected Kentucky’s first governor was a log cabin located just south of present-day Rupp Arena on Lexington’s Main Street. Shelby’s first- term issues concerned choosing a permanent state capital, protecting Kentucky from Indian attacks and financing the militia which provided that protection. In December 1792, Frankfort was chosen as Kentucky’s state capital.

During the last year of Shelby's term he authorized the widening of the Wilderness Road from Cumberland Gap to Crab Orchard (most of which is now US 25E) in order to allow better access for wagon travel. Daniel Boone in February 1796 unsuccessfully sought the contract which was awarded to James Knox and Joseph Crockett. (Daniel Boone by Michael A. Lofaro)

There was dissatisfaction with Kentucky's 1792 Constitution due to opposition to the use of the Kentucky "Electoral College," which elected the Governor and members of the Kentucky State Senate rather than by popular vote. This was one of the reasons for the adoption of the Kentucky Constitution of 1799.

After serving his first term, Shelby was elected to another term in 1812.

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             After serving his first term, Shelby was elected to another term in 1812.

             Other officials who served during Shelby’s first term include

 Secretary of State –James Brown  1792-93

Secretary of State—John Breckinridge 1794

Secretary of State—James Brown 1795

Secretary of State—Harry Toulmin 1796

 Attorney General—George Nicholas (appointed) 1792

Attorney General—William Murray (appointed) 1793

Attorney General—James Brown     (appointed) 1794

Attorney General—John Breckinridge (appointed) 1795-96

 Auditor --William McDowell 1792-96

 Treasurer—John Logan 1792-96;  Per Article VI, Section 6—appointed by the General Assembly;

 Clerk, Court of Appeals—Christopher Greenup  1792-95

Clerk, Court of Appeals—Thomas Todd--1796

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SOME ISSUES DURING THE FIRST SHELBY ADMINISTRATION

        During the last year of Shelby's term he authorized the widened of the Wilderness Road from Cumberland Gap to Crab Orchard (part of which is US 25 E).  The purpose was to allow better access for wagon travel.  Daniel Boone in February 1796 unsuccessfully sought the contract which was awarded to James Knox and Joseph Crockett.  (Daniel Boone by Michael A. Lofaro)

      There was dissatisfaction with the Kentucky's 1792 Constitution due to the opposition to the Kentucky "Electoral College" which elected the Governor and members of the Kentucky State Senate.  This was one of the reasons for the adoption of the KY Constitution of 1799.

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                                                           ISAAC SHELBY’S 2nd Term

1812-1816

 ISSUES

            Agitation for war with Britain was in the background with the Election for Governor in 1812.  During the Congressional elections of 1810, Kentucky sent two “War Hawks” to the U.S. Congress—Henry Clay and Richard M. Johnson.  Both wanted war with Britain not only to deal with British tyranny on the high seas but to end the threat posed by Great Britain and its Indian Allies in the Old Northwest.  Kentuckians were concerned about the threats posed by the Indian nations in the Northwest (present day Indiana, Illinois and Western Ohio) as well the British in Canada.  At the time, Clay and Johnson advocated U.S. takeover of Canada. 

            Henry Clay believed that it would be in the best interests of the United States to control not only the Mississippi but the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River.

   Shelby’s Term of Office

            Kentucky wanted a proven warrior to serve as Governor and head of the militia during a time of war.   Kentuckians elected the 62 year old Isaac Shelby to a second term as governor 16 years after leaving office as the Commonwealth’s first governor in 1812. 

            The War of 1812 dominated Shelby’s 2nd term.  Kentucky’s population of about 400,000 supplied over 24,000 men towards the war effort.  Governor Shelby himself in the summer of 1813 met over 3,000 militia volunteers from Newport to take part in the war in northern Ohio and Canada.

            Governor Shelby  was leader in the “Battle of the Thames”  (Chatham, Ontario) a decisive battle in which the British and their Native American Allies including Shawnee Chief Tecumseh were defeated. Colonel Richard M. Johnson (the Congressman and later U.S. Vice President) is credited with the death of Tecumseh.

            At the end of the war, Congress awarded the Congressional Gold Medal to Isaac Shelby for his role in the War of 1812.

            Shelby returned to his home Traveler’s Rest in Lincoln County when his term was over in 1816.  In 1818, he assisted General Andrew Jackson as a commissioner in the negotiations with the Chickasaw for the part of Kentucky now known as the Jackson Purchase.

            Shelby died in 1826 at Traveler’s Rest.  At the time of his death, he was the only settler living his original land claim from Virginia in Kentucky.

           Counties in ten states have been named for KY Governor Isaac Shelby.

 Below a copy of a painting of the death of Tecumseh by Richard Johnson at the Battle of the Thames

  Death of Tecumseh.JPG