Fulton County

Historical Marker #1169 in Fulton explains that the county and town were both named for Robert Fulton, an early steamboat innovator. Fulton County's location on the Mississippi River in the southwest corner of Kentucky fits well with its namesake's fame and the mode of travel and trade that came to dominate that body of water during the nineteenth century.

The last geographical region added to Kentucky was known as the Jackson Purchase. It was named after General Andrew Jackson because of Jackson's involvement in the negotiation process with the Chickasaw Indian Nation for the acquisition of the section of land that was eventually bordered by the Ohio River to the north, the Tennessee River to the east, the Mississippi River to the west, and the Tennessee state line to the south. The treaty was signed in October 1818, and became official the next year. The Jackson Purchase was eventually divided into eight Kentucky counties: Hickman, Calloway, Graves, McCracken, Marshall, Ballard, Fulton, and Carlisle. In 1845, Fulton County was created from part of Hickman County.

Fulton County's namesake, Robert Fulton, built one of the first commercially successful steamboats in the United States. Fulton's boat, the "Clermont," was successfully tested on the Hudson River in New York in 1807. This innovative craft quickly caught on and drastically changed the way people traveled and transported goods. Before the advent of the railroad the steamboat was the quickest and most effective way to reach distant locations.

The first steamboat to travel from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to New Orleans, Louisiana, made the trip in 1811. That craft, the "New Orleans," was owned by Robert Fulton and partner Robert R. Livingston (Livingston County, Kentucky's namesake). The "New Orleans" was delayed at Louisville, at the Falls of the Ohio, for about a month until the river's water was high enough to safely pass over the obstacle. Then, in December, near what would be Fulton County, the "New Orleans" was rocked by the powerful series of New Madrid earthquakes. The boat, however, did not sustain any significant damage. The "New Orleans" finally reached its namesake destination in January 1812.

Unfortunately, neither Fulton nor Livingston lived to see the true impact that their innovation had on the Western rivers' waters. Livingston died in 1813 and Fulton died two years later.