by Hillary Delaney
On June 1st, 1792, Kentucky was officially granted statehood, separating from Virginia to become the fifteenth state of our young nation, and the first west of the Appalachian mountains. In 2017, we celebrated a milestone anniversary here in the Bluegrass State. The Latin term for this landmark is “Quasquibicentennial,” but 225th birthday is plenty impressive.
The process to statehood was not a rapid one. In fact, it took six years from the first petition submitted to the Virginia legislature in 1786 for out status to become official. Communities were well established by 1792, as part of Virginia, and it was clear that the growth would not soon slow. In what would become Boone County, Tanner’s Station, the town we now know as Petersburg, was established in 1789, by Baptist preacher, John Tanner. There were many developing communities in the territory that predated statehood. The first of these, known as “stations” branched out from the Wilderness Road used by Daniel Boone to usher the earliest nonindigenous settlers into the area. It wasn’t long before more refined towns began to grow.
The “Kentucke Gazette,” a newspaper printed in Lexington, had been in circulation for several years before statehood became official, and mention of lands in what would become Boone County were not unusual before even statehood was granted. Land beckoned, and the people came.
Statehood had been achieved, but Kentucky was also defined as a “Commonwealth” joining the ranks of Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Virginia. The title is symbolic, and holds no special rank amongst the other states of the nation, but it does have special meaning. The agreed upon definitions in academic dictionary sources are: “A nation, state or other political unit, such as: one founded on law and united by compact or tacit agreement of the people for the common good, ” or “one in which supreme authority is vested in the people.”
Kentucky’s designation as such simply adds to the pioneer image we already carried as the wild settlers of the “West.” Our independence and need to have a voice that was uniquely “Kentuckian” didn’t start nor end with statehood. It was these qualities that helped our nation gain independence from the crown, and expand our growing nation.
Our current official state seal, with the image of the statesman shaking hands with a frontiersman, is a well-known representation of our history as a state. The adventuresome explorers (like our county’s namesake, Daniel Boone,an the rough and tumble Simon Kenton) paved the way for the ambitious, somewhat more refined, politicians and country gentlemen. This seal was not created until 1962, but the design, all the way back to 1792, has always included a friendly embrace, and our state motto, “United We Stand, Divided We Fall.”