Ole’ timers tend to have the best stories, many times passed down for decades. Unfortunately, in most cases, those don’t make it to the textbooks. There are a lot of stories that have been recorded… but aren’t really told anymore. Every state has a little weird or disturbing history, primarily because we were an evolving country. Some little-known Kentucky history is more intriguing than what was published, and that is just based on what we actually know. I can just imagine what tales lay in cemeteries all across Kentucky.
10. The official state drink gets drank a LOT.
The Mint Julep is the official state drink, though it is primarily consumed during the Kentucky Derby Festival and races. It has been estimated that more than 120,000 of these drinks are consumed at Churchill Downs during the festivities. That doesn’t include other Derby parties and festivities.
9. Bloody Monday in Louisville
Louisville Kentucky became the mouth of madness on August 6th, 1855, which was an election day. The records show Irish Catholic and German immigrant communities were the victims of an all out assault stemming from disagreements between political parties. The Democrats and the now extinct Know Nothing Party were put to blame. An unbelievable amount of public and private property was vandalized or destroyed completely via fire, an unknown number of individuals were injured and around 22 people were “reported” dead. No victims, nor any of their families received any compensation. There were five people indicted, but it made things worse, as not one was convicted for the crimes.
8. Pepsi consumption
The people of Pikeville like their Pepsi. It has been recorded that the annual consumption per capita of Pepsi is greater in Pikeville than anywhere else in the nation. That means they drink more Pepsi than ANYWHERE else… and the city only has a population of less than 7,000. It is not surprising that the adult Diabetes rate is 15.7% for that county, but only 11% for the state according to City-Data. The obesity rate is 33.3% for Pike County, and 30% for Kentucky as a whole. Not pointing any fingers at Pepsi, but…
7. Peanut Butter production
The J.M. Smucker Company owns Jif in Lexington, which is the largest producer of peanut butter in the world. Jif use to be Big Top Peanut Butter prior to 1955, but Procter and Gamble purchased it and changed the name, along with the recipe. They added molasses and sugar, along with different oils other than peanut oil. The goal was to create a different product that would compete with other peanut butter suppliers on the market. JM Smuckers made the purchase in 2001 and the success and popularity of the product continues.
6. Bank robberies by renowned outlaws
Jesse and Frank James, along with their gang committed two bank robberies in our home state. They robbed the Nimrod & Co. Bank in Russellville during March of 1868, and a bank in Columbia on April 29, 1872. There was at least one death at each holdup.
5. Cheapside Park
Today, this area in Lexington is now a bustling market, but its history in the 1800s and early 1900s is much darker. The square was once the location of one of the busiest slave markets in the south, due to its close proximity to the river and traveling routes of that time. Slave auctions were deemed “court day”, and interested buyers came from all around. The people auction featured mixed, Indian, black and other slaves. Despite the elimination of slavery, the human trade at this location continued till 1921.
4. Louisville riot of 1968
Louisville, along with a few other big cities across our nation experienced some rioting upon the death of MLK. More than 400 individuals gathered around 28th and Greenwood and commenced to agitating and causing problems. People were hurt, businesses damaged, robbed and destroyed, and even public parks annihilated. I have to admit, the concept of destroying private and public property in protest or support of a cause is quite foreign to me. Nothing is gained, unless you count insurance money, or consider furthering the spread of grief successful.
3. Zerelda Elizabeth Cole James
This woman was born January 29th in Woodford County Kentucky circa 1825. She was the mother of Frank and Jesse James. Zerelda married a commercial hemp farmer and known evangelical minister named Robert Sallee James on December 28th, 1841 in Stamping Ground Kentucky. Frank James was born in 1843 and Jesse in 1847.
2. William T. Anderson
Born in Hopkins County in 1840, Anderson is more widely recognized by his nickname, Bloody Bill. He has been deemed one of the most vicious, deadly Confederate guerrilla leaders in the entire American Civil War. While in Missouri hunting Union members, Bloody Bill captured and took Union prisoners from a train. This was the first train taken during the Civil War. Despite his murderous attitude when it came to men, with women, Anderson was more gentle. He ordered his men not to harass women during raids and takeovers. He was known to pick a high ranking officer to keep for prisoner exchange or information, and then kill the remaining men.
1. Civil War neutrality
The Bluegrass State wanted no part of the Confederacy, nor the Union. Unfortunately, since our state was a very strategic location and the birth place of both Lincoln and Davis, neutrality was not allowed. We were the only state in the war that represented both sides though.
There is an abundance of little-known Kentucky history whispered in the wind. I love hearing the old stories and learning more about our beautiful state. We have to take the good with the bad, as it shaped our state into what it is today. Do you know any interesting bits of Bluegrass history?