Explore Bourbon County, Kentucky

Bourbon County lies in the heart of the Bluegrass Region of Kentucky. The area is well known for its fertile soils, rolling landscapes, and bluegrass pastures. Formed from Fayette County, Virginia in 1786, Bourbon County originally encompassed all or parts of 32 later counties, taking in much of eastern and northeastern Kentucky.

Before European settlers arrived, the landscape was open forest punctuated by acres of native cane and occasional grassy openings. Farmers cleared most of the forest and virtually all of the canebrakes as they opened the land for cultivation, creating a landscape known as "woodland pastures." Woodland pastures were a classic feature of large farms during the nineteenth century and can still be seen in the county today.

Settlers first found a network of trails created by the animals and Native Americans who had lived here for thousands of years. A major buffalo trail, called the Limestone Trace, began at the Ohio River at present day Maysville, an important point for settlers coming to Kentucky on flatboats down the Ohio River. The same road, ultimately US Route 68, extended to Lexington, putting Bourbon County in the center of the earliest movement of settlers into Kentucky.

The markers on this tour take you from the earliest pioneers through the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. They introduce you to citizens who impacted the history of the county, state, and nation. You will learn about early churches, education, and African American history along with the roles of industry, transportation, inns, and taverns in the county's development.

Along the tour you will encounter Paris, a thriving small town with a historic courthouse and beautiful old homes. And like the earliest explorers, the limestone-based soil, winding creeks, and rock walls will encourage you to explore Bourbon County, Kentucky's history.

Bourbon County, 1786

Historical Marker #1246 in Paris commemorates Bourbon County's origins and its courthouses. There are no surviving images of the first courthouse located on this spot, but the Bourbon County court required a frame building with a shingled roof…

Bourbon Whiskey/Jacob Spears

Historical Marker #2295 in Bourbon County explains the history of bourbon whiskey and Jacob Spears, one of the first distillers in the county. Early settlers first came into central Kentucky in the 1770’s. One thing they often did after staking…

Cane Ridge Meeting House

Historical Marker #51 in Bourbon County highlights the history of the Cane Ridge Meeting House, the famous revival of 1801, and its results. Cane Ridge Meeting House, built in 1791, is a special place for many reasons. Hardy pioneers, following the…

Centerville Baptist Church

Historical Marker #2178 in Bourbon County marks the Centerville Baptist Church, a historic African American congregation established in 1867. Before the Civil War, if enslaved individuals wished to participate in religious services they most often…

Colville Covered Bridge

Historical Marker #1566 in Bourbon County tells about the county's last remaining covered bridge, which is one of the few remaining in the state. The Colville Covered Bridge was constructed in 1877 by Jacob Bower of the Bower Bridge Company of…

CSA at Paris, 1862

Historical Marker #696 in Paris tells the story of famed Confederate raider, John Hunt Morgan, who rode into Paris on July 18, 1862, after a furious battle that defeated a larger Union force the day before, 14 miles north at Cynthiana. Morgan and…

Duncan Tavern

Historical Marker #93 in Paris describes the significance of Major Joseph Duncan's house and tavern. On the west side of the public square in Paris, Kentucky, stands Duncan Tavern, current Headquarters of the Kentucky Society of the Daughters…

Eades Tavern

Marker #1824 describes Eades Tavern, one of the oldest surviving buildings in Paris. It has served as tavern, post office, school, and private home. Thomas Eades built the log portion of Eades Tavern around 1795. The first travelers who stopped at…

Edward Boone (1740-80)

Historical Marker #2059 in Bourbon County marks the location of the death of Edward "Ned" Boone, the brother of Daniel Boone. In 1780, Daniel and Ned Boone were returning to Boone's Station located in present Fayette County, where…

Famous Inventor, 1877-1963

Historical Marker #1493 in Paris highlights the accomplishments of American inventor Garrett Augustus Morgan, who was born the son of former slaves on March 4, 1877. Garrett Morgan grew up on the family farm while his father worked for the…

First Christian Church

Historical Marker #2090 in Paris marks the current location of that town's First Christian Church. First Christian Church's location on a ridge near the center of town makes the red-tiled octagonal towers visible from a considerable…

Garrett Davis (1801-1872)

Historical Marker #1886 in Paris highlights the life of politician Garrett Davis. Garrett Davis, statesman, excellent debater, and public servant, was born on September 10, 1801, at Mt. Sterling, Kentucky. Educated locally, Davis aspired to…

Hopewell

Historical Marker #1855 in Paris tells the story of the Hopewell Presbyterian Church. Before becoming Paris, the town was called Hopewell. According to Collins' "History of Kentucky," a group of people from Cumberland County,…

John Edwards, 1748-1837

Historical Marker #1722 in Paris outlines John Edwards' contributions to the founding of the state of Kentucky and his prominence in early Bourbon County history. John Edwards was born in Stafford County, Virginia. After service in the…

Johnston's Inn

Historical Marker #1283 in Bourbon County marks Johnston's Inn, which was illustrated on John Filson's 1784 map of Kentucky. Johston's Inn is recognized as the oldest house in Bourbon County. It is located on John Filson's…

Kentucky Novelist

Historical Marker #1141 in Bourbon County marks the birthplace of John Fox, Jr., born December 16, 1862, at Stony Point between Paris and Winchester. John Fox, Jr., the son of John Fox and his second wife, Minerva Carr, lived in Bourbon County…

Mae Street Kidd (1904-99)

Historical Marker #2147 in Millersburg commemorates the many accomplishments of Minnie Mae Jones, who was born February 8, 1904, to a racially mixed mother and white father. As a child Mae Street Kidd was discriminated against by both white and…

Martin’s Station

Historical Marker #150 in Bourbon County commemorates Martin's Station, an important frontier Kentucky settlement that was captured by British Captain Henry Byrd in 1780. John Martin, an early Kentucky pioneer who had spent time at Fort…

Ruddell’s Mills

Historical Marker #1462 in Bourbon County tells the story of Ruddle's Mill, one of Bourbon County's first industrial districts. The location of Isaac Ruddell's grist mill, the "mill seat," required legal authorization and…

Silas Baptist Church

Historical Marker #1596 in Bourbon County gives the history of Silas Baptist Church in Bourbon County. Silas Baptist Church is located 12 miles from Paris at the junction of the Silas and Collins Pikes. The congregation was first organized…

Site of 1792 Church

Historical Marker #753 in Bourbon County marks the site of Mt. Gilead Methodist Meeting House, which was founded in 1792. The founder of Mt. Gilead, Caleb Jarvis Taylor, was born in Maryland in 1763, into the Roman Catholic faith. He left home at…

Site of Fairfield

Historical Marker #82 in Bourbon County highlights the first home of James Garrard, the second governor of Kentucky. Governor James Garrard's first house, located on Stoner Creek, was called "Fairfield." It was constructed before…

William Holmes McGuffey

Historical Marker #178 in Paris honors William Holmes McGuffey, creator of the famous "McGuffey Readers" textbooks. William H. McGuffey was born in Washington County, Pennsylvania, in 1800. He spent his youth in that area, and adjoining…

Frankfort and Cincinnati Railroad

Historical Marker #2408 in Bourbon County remembers the Frankfort and Cincinnati Railroad and the Centerville depot. Although called the Frankfort and Cincinnati Railroad, the line only ran the 40 miles from Frankfort to Paris. It operated until…

Millersburg Military Institute

Historical Marker # 2407 in Millersburg commemorates the Millersburg Military Institute (MMI), which was established in 1893. Colonel C. M. Best, a native of Virginia, founded the MMI in the former Kentucky Wesleyan College building on Main…