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French explorers in the 17th century documented numerous tribes living in todays Kentucky until the Beaver Wars in the 1670s. However, by the time that European colonial explorers and settlers began entering Kentucky in greater numbers in the mid-18th century, there were no major Native American settlements in the region left. The Iroquois had controlled much of the Ohio River valley for hunting from their bases in what is now New York. The Shawnee from the northwest and Cherokee from the south also sent parties into the area regularly for hunting. As more settlers entered the area, warfare broke out because the Native Americans considered the settlers to be encroaching on their traditional hunting grounds. Today there are two state recognized tribes in Kentucky, the Southern Cherokee Nation of Kentucky and the Ridgetop Shawnee.

On 31 December 1776, the region of Virginia beyond the Appalachian Mountains was established as Kentucky County by the Virginia General Assembly. Kentucky County was abolished on June 30, 1780, when it was divided into Fayette, Jefferson, and Lincoln counties. On several occasions the region's residents petitioned the General Assembly and the Confederation Congress for separation from Virginia and statehood. Ten constitutional conventions were held in Danville between 1784 and 1792.

One petition, which had Virginia's assent, came before the Confederation Congress in early July 1788. Unfortunately, its consideration came up a day after word of New Hampshire's all-important ninth ratification of the proposed Constitution, thus establishing it as the new framework of governance for the United States. In light of this development, Congress thought that it would be "unadvisable" to admit Kentucky into the Union, as it could do so "under the Articles of Confederation" only, but not "under the Constitution", and so declined to take action.

On 18 December 1789, Virginia again gave its consent to Kentucky statehood. The United States Congress gave its approval on 4 February 1791. (This occurred two weeks before Congress approved Vermont's petition for statehood.) Kentucky officially became the fifteenth state in the Union on June 1, 1792. Isaac Shelby, a military veteran from Virginia, was elected its first Governor

Kentucky was one of the border states during the American Civil War. Although frequently described as never having seceded, representatives from several counties met at Russellville calling themselves the "Convention of the People of Kentucky" and passed an Ordinance of Secession on 20 November 1861. They established a Confederate government of Kentucky with its capital in Bowling Green.

Though Kentucky was represented by the central star on the Confederate battle flag, it remained officially "neutral" throughout the war due to the Union sympathies of a significant number of the Commonwealth's citizens..


The Seal


Kentucky, by an act of the General Assemby  of the Commonwealth, approved on 20 December 1792, empowered and required the governor to procure a great seal for the Commonwealth. The act says:

“Be it enacted by the General Assembly, That the Governor be empowered and he is hereby required, to povide, at the public charge, a Seal for thgis Commonwealth; and procure the same, to be engraved with the following device, viz. Two friends embracing, with the name of the State over their heads; and round about them the following motto, ‘United we stand, Divided we fall[1]

What became of this seal is not known; but, as the State House has been several times destroyed, it is presumened the seal was also lost by fire. An impression of what is thought to have been this seal, attached to an old document, conforms generally to the one now in use, though much more crudely engraved. [2]

During the civil war the Confederate Government of Kentucky used a seal showing an arm in armory upholding a five-pointed  star, surrounded by another 12 five-pointed stars. In the circumference there are the words KENTUCKY VOCE POPULI  between six twigs of roses, the motto meaning ‘By the Voice of the People’. [3]

An act of the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, approved on 6 April 1893, says that “the seal of the Commonwealth of Kentucky shall have upon it the device, two friends embracing each other, with the words ‘Commonwealth of Kentucky’ over their heads, and around about them the words, ‘United we Stand, Divided we Fall.’ [4]


Print of the original seal of Kentucky

on a document ca. 1800

Seal of the Confederate Government of Kentucky




Seal of Kentucky, 1876


Seal of Kentucky, 19th cent

Seal of Kentucky, 1893

21th cent. seal, coloured version


Secretary of State




The Arms


In the last quarter of the 19th century a coat of arms was designed showing the device of the seal. [5]


Æ See illustration in the head of this article





Kentucky State Area Command







That for regiments and separate battalions of the Kentucky Army National Guard: From a wreath of colors, within a garland of trumpet vine clasped hands clothed at the wrists all Proper. [6]


The trumpet vine is the State flower and the clasped hands are indicative of the motto of Kentucky, "United We Stand, Divided We Fall."


The crest was approved for the color bearing organizations of the State of Kentucky on 5 February 1924.


Distinctive Unit Insignia



A gold color metal and enamel device 2.86 cm in height overall consisting of a blue disk bearing at the top, horizontally throughout, two gold clasped hands terminating in black cuffs above fifteen gold stars in base grouped in five staggered horizontal rows, all enclosed by a circular gold scroll folded over the cuffs and inscribed "FIGHT" at the top and "AS KENTUCKIANS" at the sides and base, all letters blue.


The two clasped hands are from the crest for Army National Guard units of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.  The hands, symbolizing the state motto "United We Stand, Divided We Fall," additionally refer to the state's courageous fighting forces united for victory.  The blue background is from the flag of "The Bluegrass State."  The fifteen stars in staggered rows of three stars each refer to Kentucky, the fifteenth state admitted to the Union, and a historic arrangement of the stars on the 1795 National Flag of the United States.


The distinctive unit insignia was originally approved for Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment and noncolor bearing units of the Kentucky Army National Guard on 14 May 1971.  The insignia was redesignated for Headquarters, State Area Command, Kentucky Army National Guard effective 30 December 1983.


Shoulder Sleeve Insignia


Coat of Arms



On a shield 6.35 cm in width and 8.26 cm in height overall triparted blue, white and red with a yellow chief, a white long rifle barrel up outlined in blue diagonally from upper left to lower right, all within a 0.32 cm blue border.


Red, white and blue are our national colors.  The yellow, red and blue allude to the combat arms:  armor (cavalry), artillery and infantry.  The long rifle is inseparably associated with the early history of Kentucky prior to and after its admission to the Union as the fifteenth State.


The shoulder sleeve insignia was originally approved for Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, Kentucky Army National Guard on 7 December 1973.  The insignia was redesignated with description amended for the Headquarters, State Area Command, Kentucky Army National Guard on 30 December 1983.  (TIOH Dwg. No. A-1-566)


Indian Nations


Southern Cherokee Nation of Kentucky


Seal of the Southern Cherokee Nation of Kentucky


Ridgetop Shawnee Band


Seal of the Ridgetop Shawnee



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 © Hubert de Vries 2017-03-19




[1] Littell’s Laws of Kentucky: The Statutes Laws of Kentucky with Notes, Praelections, and Observations, on the Public Acts, Comprehending also, the Laws of Virginia and Acts of Parliament in Force in This Commonwealth; The Charter of Virginia, The Federal and State Constitutions, and so much of The King of England’s Proclamation in 1763 as relates to the Titles to Land in Kentucky, Together with a Table of Reference to the Cases Adjudicated in the Court of Appeals, in three volumes. William Littell, Esq. (Printed by and for William Hunter, Frankfort, Kentucky, 1809) vol. 1 , p. 136.

[2] Zieber, Eugene: Heraldry in America. Published by the Department of Heraldry of the Bailey, Banks and Biddle Company. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1895. p.132

[3] Documented by Wikipedia: Confederate Government of Kentucky. No reference given

[4] Kentucky Laws, 1891-1893: Acts of the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, ... 1892 (E. Polk Johnson, Public Printer and Binder, Frankfort, Kentucky, 1893)  p. 739 Æ Shankle, Georg Earlie: State Names, Flags, Seals, Songs, Birds, Flowers and other Symbols. The H.W. Wilson Comp.. New York, 1951

[5] Mitchell, Henry:  The State Arms of the Union, Boston: L. Prang & Co. (1876) 

[6] Trumpet Vine: Campsis radicans (L.) Bignoniaceae 


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