When statehood arrived on the Kentucky frontier in 1792, most of the residents were poor, traveling in flatboats and wagons. In the early 1800s when the Antebellum era arrived, Marylanders and Virginians came to find fresh land to grow tobacco, building great plantation houses and massive spreads. A growing network of stagecoach roads, such as the Old Kentucky Turnpike, and railroads made transporting the crop easy. Slaves worked the fields, while in other places, farmers grew their own crops. When it began evident that War would come, many residents migrated to Tennessee and Missouri to avoid the disputes that ultimately split the state and families in allegiance. It was into this milieu that Abraham Lincoln, the US President during the Civil War, and Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederacy during the Civil War were born, just a few years apart. One on the hardscrabble frontier and the other to a reasonably prosperous farmer. Lincoln was self-taught, while Davis would go on to West Point.
The Old Kentucky Turnpike Scenic Byway begins at My Old Kentucky Home State Park (with a prestigious Antebellum home) and ends at the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace. Kentucky’s history is impeccably preserved in Bardstown, 45 miles south of Louisville. The great American composer Stephen Foster was inspired by a visit to his cousin’s 1813 antebellum mansion, Federal Hill. The struggle within Kentucky can be seen at the Civil War Museum. St. Joseph Proto Cathedral, the first cathedral west of the Allegheny Mountains was constructed in 1816. The Old Kentucky Dinner Train takes you back to the era of gracious dining, and you can enjoy a carriage ride through a historic downtown that was began in the late 1700s. The picturesque route of the Byway begins at the Falls of the Ohio travels deep into the woods, where the landscape is rich and green, with just a hint of blue if the light is right.