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Kentucky Historic Figures

Abraham Lincoln
1809-65: Born near Hodgenville, Kentucky, Lincoln spent his early years in the Commonwealth. Lincoln was elected the 16th President on November 6, 1860. After his election, many Southern states fearing Republican control in the government, seceded from the Union. Despite enormous pressures, loss of life, battlefield setbacks, generals who weren't ready to fight, and assassination threats, Lincoln stuck with his pro-Union policy for 4 long years of civil war. On April 9, 1865, Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox, bringing the war to an end. Unfortunately, Lincoln lived only a short time after Lee's surrender. On April 14, 1865, the Lincolns attended a play at Ford's Theatre. During the performance John Wilkes Booth entered the State Box from the rear, and shot the President in the back of the head. Lincoln passed away the next day at 7:22 A.M., marking the first Presidential assassination in American history. Abraham Lincoln is remembered for his vital role in preserving the Union and beginning the process that led to the end of slavery in the United States. He is also remembered for his character, his speeches and letters, and as a man of humble origins whose determination and perseverance led him to the nation's highest office.
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Jefferson Davis
1808-89: Born in Fairview, Kentucky, not far from Abraham Lincoln in time or distance, Davis moved with his family to Mississippi during his boyhood. Nominated for an appointment to West Point, Davis graduated from the academy in 1828. He had the distinction of attending the U.S. Military Academy with Robert E. Lee, a fellow cadet. Later, Davis took part in the Black Hawk War with Abraham Lincoln, a fellow officer. Serving as Secretary of War under Franklin Pierce and in the Senate, Davis became a spokesman for the South, declaring the south as "...a country within a country." When the Confederacy seceded, Davis announced Mississippi's secession on the U.S. Senate floor, retired to the South and was elected president of the Confederate States of America. At the end of the war Davis spent two years in jail for treason but was released before trial. A private businessman and author after his release, the former President died in 1889 at the age of 82.
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Cassius Marcellus Clay
1810-1903: Clay was born in Madison County, Kentucky and was known as the Lion of White Hall. He served three terms in the Kentucky legislature, but is best known as the fiery editor of the emancipationist newspaper, True American, which was founded in Lexington in 1845. He was so devoted to harmony between the races that he helped found the first integrated college in America, Berea College in East Central Kentucky. He also served as Ambassador to Russia and was a founder of the Republican Party.
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Laura Clay
1849-1941: Born in Madison County, Kentucky, Laura was the daughter of Cassius Clay. She founded the Kentucky Equal Rights Association in 1888. It was the first permanent organization in the South dedicated to obtaining suffrage for women. She also served as an officer in the Federal Equal Rights Association. Because of her work, women in Lexington, Newport, and Covington, Kentucky were allowed to vote in school elections in 1894 - 26 years before they could vote in federal elections.
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Daniel Boone
1734-1820: Daniel Boone was not born in Kentucky, but has long been identified with the state. Boone is the most famous pioneer in United States history. More than any other man, he was responsible for the exploration and settlement of Kentucky. In 1769 Boone and six other men traveled along wilderness trails and through the Cumberland Gap in the Appalachian Mountains into Kentucky. They found a "hunter's paradise" filled with buffalo, deer, wild turkey and meadows ideal for farming. Boone vowed to return with his family. In 1775 Boone and 30 other woodsmen were hired to improve the trails between the Carolinas and the west. The resulting route reached into the heart of Kentucky and became known as the "Wilderness Road." That same year, Boone built a fort and village called Boonesborough in Kentucky, and moved his family over the Wilderness Trail to their new home. He was captured by Shawnee Indians (1778) but escaped in time to defend Boonesborough against an Indian attack. In 1799 Boone moved west again, leading hundreds of settlers to new homes in Missouri. During his later years Boone continued to hunt and explore the west. On September 26, 1820 he died at the home of his son Nathan in Missouri. In 1845 the remains of Boone and his wife were moved to Kentucky to rest in the great pioneer's "hunter's paradise."
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