Kentucky People - Pioneers and Explorers

Thousands of pioneers came to Kentucky beginning in the mid-18th century. Kentucky's first historian, John Filson, credits James McBride with being "The first white man we have certain accounts of, who discovered this province. . . in the year 1754. . . ."

The desire for land drove the early pioneers across the Appalachian Mountains into the majestic, if not always hospitable, land of Kentucky. Listed below are some of the pioneers that we know were here when Kentucky was first becoming settled by folks of European descent. The names of thousands of others, especially women and African slaves have been lost in the abyss of time.


  • Daniel Boone: The exploits of Daniel Boone are legendary in Kentucky history from the time he made his first trip here in 1767 until he moved to Missouri in 1799. Daniel, with the help of other early explorers, cleared the way for the Wilderness Road. He and his brother, Edward, married sisters, Rebecca and Martha Bryan(t). The Bryan(t) family settled the area near Lexington known presently as Bryan Station. Daniel, and his wife Rebecca, played a major role in establishing Fort Boonesborough, the second settlement by white people in Kentucky.

    Daniel and Rebecca Boone are buried in the Frankfort Cemetery. Among other areas and roads across the commonwealth, Boone County and Booneville, the seat of Owsley County, are named for Daniel.

    In the painting, shown at right, George Caleb Bingham depicts Boone leading settlers through Cumberland Gap into Kentucky.

George Caleb Bingham's oil painting of Daniel Boone leading settlers through the Cumberland Gap to Kentucky.
"Daniel Boone Escorting Settlers Through the Cumberland Gap" painting by George C. Bingham, 1851-52

  • Jemima Boone Daughter of Rebecca and Daniel; early settler; one of the first white women in Kentucky.
  • Rebecca Boone One of the first white women to settle in Kentucky; arrived here in 1775 with her husband Daniel and daughter Jemima.
  • Samuel Boone The oldest brother of Daniel Boone; came to Kentucky in 1779 with his family and settled in Fayette County.
  • Squire Boone A brother of Daniel Boone; came to Kentucky in 1769 and helped establish a settlement in Shelby County. He was a member of the 1785 Kentucky Convention.
  • Daniel Boone Bryan(t) A Revolutionary War veteran and an early Kentucky pioneer; founder of Bryan(t) Station in Fayette County; established a paper mill and operated a gun shop; was a spiritual and civic leader who promoted education. He was the son of William Bryan and a nephew of Daniel Boone.
  • Joseph Bryan(t) A brother-in-law of Daniel Boone; helped in the settlement of Bryan(t)'s Station in Fayette County.
  • Richard Calloway Revolutionary War veteran; came to Kentucky with Daniel Boone in 1776; one of the first settlers of Boonesborough; an elected representative of Kentucky County, Virginia. He licensed the first ferry in Kentucky. Calloway County, Kentucky is named for him.
  • William Casey Came to Kentucky in 1779; Casey County, Kentucky was named for this pioneer and great-grandfather of Samuel L. Clemens, "Mark Twain".
  • Michael Cassidy Early pioneer and a Revolutionary War veteran; one of the first settlers in Fleming County, Kentucky.
  • Anne Christian [See Below: Fort William]
  • William Christian [See Below: Fort William]
  • George Rogers Clark Revolutionary War general. Came to Kentucky in 1772; played a vital role in getting the Commonwealth of Virginia to claim Kentucky as a county. Set up an outpost on Corn Island, at the Falls of the Ohio which later grew into the city of Louisville.
  • Jane Coomes Kentucky's first known schoolteacher. She taught at Fort Harrod beginning in 1776.
  • Elijah Craig Early Kentucky settler; preacher; and reputed inventor of bourbon whiskey.
  • Walker Daniel Founded Danville, Kentucky in 1781. First Attorney General of the Kentucky District, 1783.
  • John Finley Explored Kentucky with Daniel Boone.
  • John Filson Often called Kentucky's "First Historian". Published Kentucke in 1784, a guide to frontier Kentucky. "The Adventures of Colonel Daniel Boone", a portion of the book, led to the popularity of Boone as a hero and legendary figure in Kentucky history.
  • John Fleming, (Colonel) Revolutionary War veteran; settled in the area of present day Fleming County, (which is named for him), in 1776. His half-brother George Stockton, owned the land and laid out the town of Flemingsburg in 1796.
  • John Floyd Early explorer with Boone and company; member of first legislative body that met west of the Allegheny Mountains in 1775. Built Floyd's Station in the late 1770's close to present-day Louisville. Floyd County, Kentucky is named for him.
  • Christopher Gist Early explorer of the Ohio River area.
  • William (Indian Bill) Hardin Revolutionary War veteran; founder of Hardinsburg.
  • Silas Harlan Came to Kentucky in 1774 and built Harlan's Station on the Salt River in 1778, seven miles south of Harrodsburg. Harlan County, Kentucky and its seat, the city of Harlan, were named for him.
  • James Harrod Founder of Kentucky's first permanent settlement of people of European descent. [See Below: Fort Harrod]
  • Simon Kenton Traveled with Daniel Boone and other early Kentucky pioneers. Kenton County, Kentucky is named for him.
  • Dr. John Knight Revolutionary War veteran and the first physician and surgeon known to practice in Shelby County, Kentucky.
  • James Knox Led a group Long Hunters to the state in 1770. Became an early settler in the Shelby County area. Revolutionary War veteran.
  • Abraham Lincoln Grandfather of the U.S. President Abraham Lincoln; he was an early settler in Jefferson County, Kentucky.
  • Benjamin Logan Pioneer; built Logan's Fort, later called Saint Asaph's, on the site of present-day Stanford, Kentucky. He was a Revolutionary War soldier, serving as a colonel in the Kentucky militia.
  • James McBride First known (1754), white explorer around the mouth of the Kentucky River area.
  • Ann McGinty Sometimes called Kentucky's first clothing manufacturer, Ann McGinty came to Fort Harrod in 1775 with a spinning wheel tied on her horse. She experimented with native grasses, trying to find fabric material for clothing and other household goods.
  • Christopher Riffe Came to Kentucky in 1784 with William Casey, (see above), and lived at various pioneer settlements in Central Kentucky. In 1793, he became the first white pioneer to settle in Casey County, Kentucky and went on to become the first state representative from that county.
  • John Strode Came to Boonesborough in 1776. Founded Strode's Station, in Clark County, Kentucky in 1779.
  • Col. John Todd Came to Kentucky in 1775; participated in the first legislative meetings west of the Allegheny Mountains at Boonesborough in 1775. He helped secure land-grants for public schools. Todd County, Kentucky is named for him.
  • Levi Todd Part of the group of hunters that named Lexington, Kentucky; first Fayette County Clerk. Grandfather of Mary Todd Lincoln.
  • Stephen Trigg Came to Kentucky in 1779. Established Trigg's Station near Harrodsburg in 1780. Trigg County, Kentucky is named for him.
  • Dr. Thomas Walker An employee of the Loyal Land Company, Dr. Walker came to Kentucky in 1750 to explore their land grants here. He provided the first known written records of the Cumberland Gap area and is credited with naming the Cumberland River for the Duke of Cumberland.
  • John Waller Help establish Kenton's Station near Maysville and is credited as a founder of Falmouth, Kentucky. Revolutionary War veteran.
  • Esther Whitley An early settler, she was a legendary sharpshooter. Owned the first known brick house in the state and the first circular horse (race) track in North America. Esther was the wife of William Whitley.
  • William Whitley Renowned for driving the Native Americans from Southeast Kentucky. William was the husband of Esther Whitley. Whitley County, Kentucky is named for him.
  • Jenny Wiley Early Kentucky pioneer. See: Jenny Wiley State Resort Park.


  • Barnett's Station Located in Ohio County, established by brothers Alexander and Joseph Barnett of Virginia.
  • Brashear's Station Located in Bullitt County, on the Wilderness Road, between Louisville and Harrodsburg, established by William Brashear of Maryland. Also called Salt River Garrison or Froman's Station.
  • Bryan(t)'s Station Located in Fayette County, established by brothers James, Joseph, Morgan, and William Bryan(t).
  • John Craig's Fort Located in Woodford County, established by Captain John Craig in 1783.
  • Carpenter's Station Located in Lincoln County, established in 1780, by the brothers Adam, Conrad and John Carpenter.
  • Cartwright's Station Located in Marion County, on the Wilderness Road, established in 1779, by Samuel Cartwright.
  • Casey's Station [See Above: William Casey]
  • Clark's Station Located in Boyle County, established in the 1770's, by George Clark, brother-in-law of William Whitley.
  • Donaldson Located in Trigg County, established around 1798 by John Cohoon, Nathan Futrell, James Thomas, and others.
  • Fort Boonesborough Located in Madison County, established in 1775, by Daniel Boone and others, as the first fort in Kentucky. Fort Boonesborough became the first town in Kentucky chartered by the Virginia Assembly. Present-day spelling of the town is "Boonesboro", although the fort and state park retain the old way.
  • Fort Harrod Its claim to fame is the first permanent white settlement in Kentucky. [See: Kentucky State Parks]
  • Fort Paint Lick Located in Garrard County, established by George Adams, William Champ, Alexander Denny, and William Miller.
  • Fort William Located in Jefferson County, established in 1785 by William Christian and his wife, Anne, a sister of Patrick Henry. They also established Bullitt Lick Saltworks, Kentucky's first industry. Christian County, Kentucky is named for him.
  • Harberson's Fort Located in Boyle County on the site of present-day Perryville, established before 1783, by Daniel Ewing, James Harberson, Thomas Walker, and others at the crossroads of the Danville-Louisville and Harrodsburg-Nashville pioneer routes.
  • Harman Station Located in Johnson County, established by Matthias Harman's hunting party in 1787. It became the first settlement in Eastern Kentucky.
  • Leestown Located in Franklin County, established by Willis Lee and Hancock Taylor before 1775. Leestown became a bustling river port for sending Kentucky corn, hemp, tobacco and whiskey to New Orleans and beyond. Once considered for the state capital.
  • Leitch's Station Located in Campbell County, established by Major David Leitch in 1789.
  • Lexington Located in Fayette County, established by Robert Patterson and others from Fort Harrod in the late 1770s. Named to commemorate the first battle of the American Revolution. Officially established as a "town" by the Virginia General Assembly on May 6, 1782, ten years before Kentucky became an independent state.
  • Lindsay's Station Located in Scott County, established by Anthony Lindsay around 1790, on an old buffalo trace, leading to the Ohio River.
  • Logan's Station Located in Lincoln County, established in 1775. Also called St. Asaph or Logan's Fort, this settlement later became the town of Stanford.
  • McFadin's Station The first settlement in Warren County, established in 1785, by Andrew McFadin (McFadden).
  • Paint Lick Station Today, the town of Paintsville, Kentucky in Johnson County, this station was established in 1790 by Colonel John Preston.
  • Phillips Fort The first settlement in Larue County, established in 1780 by Philip Phillips.
  • Shaw's Station Located in Grayson County, established in the late 18th century at the headwaters of Beaver Dam Creek; later became the town of Leitchfield.
  • Simon Kenton's Station Located in Mason County, established in the 1780s by Simon Kenton and Thomas Williams.
  • Station Camp Located in Estill County on an old buffalo trace called War Road, this was a trading post used by Native Americans and a popular camping spot for the early pioneers. Daniel Boone is said to have camped there in 1769.
  • Strode's Station [See Above: John Strode]
  • Tanner's Station The first settlement in Boone County; established in 1789, by Rev. John Tanner and others.
  • Three Forts Located in Hardin County, three forts were built approximately one mile apart in 1780 by Samuel Haycraft, Thomas Helm, and Andrew Hynes. In 1797, this area became Elizabethtown, named for the wife of Andrew Hynes.
  • Yellowbanks Located in Daviess County, established in late 18th century by William Smeathers (Bill Smothers). This area later became the town of Owensboro, Kentucky.


  • Cabin Creek In Lewis County, a passage into Kentucky from the Ohio River.
  • Chickasaw Road In Crittenden County.
  • Converging of Indian Trails In Caldwell County, three paths, the Eddy Trace, Saline Trace, and Varmint Trace converge at Big Spring, (present-day Princeton).
  • Crab Orchard Present-day town in Lincoln County; an important stop on the Wilderness Road. In later years folks met here to make the long journey into the western U.S. territory.
  • Cumberland Ford An important spot in Bell County, marked by Daniel Boone in 1775, after which, it is estimated over 100,000 pioneers crossed the river here.
  • Cumberland Trace Branched off from the Wilderness Road in Lincoln County and turned west passing through Casey, Taylor and Green counties, then meandering south through Kentucky, continuing on to what is now the city of Nashville, Tennessee.
  • Flat Lick In Knox County, eight miles south of the present-day town of Barbourville, three routes converged -- Boone's Trace, the route to Boonesborough; Warrior's Path, the route to the mouth of the Scioto River; and Wilderness Road, the trace to Crab Orchard; become one road to Cumberland Gap.
  • Logan's Trace Established by Benjamin Logan. Branched from Boone's Trace in the vicinity of present-day Stanford and continued on to Harrodsburg, and eventually to the Falls of the Ohio at Louisville.
  • Skaggs Trace Began at the Hazel Patch in Laurel County; crossed through Rockcastle County and into Lincoln County to Crab Orchard. This trace became part of the Wilderness Road and many of Kentucky's earliest pioneers and explorers, including Daniel Boone, John Floyd, Benjamin Logan, and William Whitley, traveled this trace at some point in time.
  • The Hazel Patch In Laurel County where the Boone Trace (to Boonesborough) and Skaggs Trace (to Crab Orchard) crossed.
  • The Point In Kenton County, at the confluence of the Ohio and Licking Rivers.
  • Warrior's Path An ancient trail between Ohio and East Tennessee used by the Shawnee and Cherokee people. The path is known to have crossed through Jackson County, Kentucky along War Fork Creek, two miles east of Gray Hawk. This path was used by Daniel Boone, Christopher Gist, John Finley, Dr. Thomas Walker, and others in their early exploration of Kentucky.
  • The Wilderness Road The major pioneer route into Kentucky and the first wagon road built in the state, from Cumberland Gap to Crab Orchard in Lincoln County. The Wilderness Road meandered through Bell, Laurel, Rockcastle and Lincoln counties, intersecting with Logan's Trace and other westward routes, before continuing on to Harrodsburg. [See Above: Brashear's Station; Cartwright's Station; Cumberland Ford; Flat Lick; Logan's Trace; Skagg's Trace and MAP BELOW.

   Map of the Wilderness Road

NOTE: County locations sited in the lists above are based on present-day boundaries. During early pioneer times, the territory that makes up east and central Kentucky was Kentucky County, Virginia. Later, after statehood in 1792, Kentucky continued to split, restructure and change county boundary lines until 1912 when McCreary County was formed as our 120th and last county.

Major source for information in the listings above is the Kentucky Historical Society

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