Historical Marker #1067 in Williamsburg commemorates Whitley County's namesake, Colonel William Whitley.
Arguably one of Kentucky's hardest-fighting settlers, Whitley was born in Virginia in 1749. He came to Kentucky in 1775. Although he first settled in present-day Lincoln County, he and his family moved to the safer confines of the nearby Fort Logan (Stanford). Whitley served under George Rogers Clark during the Revolutionary War, was a state legislator, and fought multiple campaigns against several Native American tribes.
During the War of 1812, the sixty-four year old Whitley volunteered to fight. On October 5, 1813, he led a charge at the Battle of the Thames and was killed in action.
Although known for his fighting nature, Whitley influenced racing. He built a track at Sportsman's Hill, his home near Stanford. While English races ran clockwise, races on Whitley's track ran in the opposite direction, ensuring him a place in racing history. Today, most American races still run counterclockwise.
Whitley's House, Sportsman's Hill, is preserved as a Kentucky State Historic Site. Whitley County, formed in January 1818, was named in his honor.