Bill Smothers Park

Historical Marker #744 marks the site of the first permanent settlement in Owensboro, settled by Bill Smothers (also known as Bill Smeathers) in 1797-98.

Bill Smothers served in Kentucky’s “Corn Stalk Militia” as an ensign before becoming a lieutenant of the 49th Regiment in December of 1803. The Kentucky Militia was established shortly after Kentucky became a state in 1792. The urgency for the militia was voiced in the new state’s constitution as the frontiersmen were faced repeatedly with Indian attacks. Because of the Federal law for the arrangement of better state militia, first Governor Isaac Shelby augmented the prompt organization of the defense. An Act approved on June 24, 1792 provided for the state two Divisions, four Brigades, and fifteen Regiments. Later, passed in 1800, the militia was reorganized into five Divisions, twelve Brigades, and fifty one Regiments.

The Regiment troops were ordered to assemble for October each year. The term “Corn Stalk Militia” began to be used for the Kentucky militia because of these particular autumn musters. As a general rule, during these musters and drills, the men would bring no guns or weapons, and instead often used corn stalks in place of guns.

Interestingly, Smothers may also have had a connection with Joseph Hamilton Daviess, for whom Daviess County is named. On April 10, 1809, Smothers was indicted for the murder of a keelboatman, Andrew Norris. Three days after his indictment, he was found not guilty by a jury that deliberated for only ten minutes. Smothers was probably represented by Daviess in court for this trial.