Historical Marker #925 in Monterey notes that town's association with steamboat travel and trade on the Kentucky River.
Monterey, in Owen County, was originally named Williamsburg after a local pioneer settler. In 1847, the town changed its name to commemorate the Battle of Monterey in the Mexican-American War. Long before the name change, Monterey had a vibrant trade on the Kentucky River. Agricultural goods were loaded from the town's wharf on to flatboats and keelboats for transport down the river to markets in Louisville on the Ohio River and New Orleans on the Mississippi River. With the advent of steamboats, and the subsequent ability to travel upstream as well as downstream, additional outlets opened for the farmers of Owen, Henry, and Grant counties to get their crops to market.
One of the major crops transported from Monterey was tobacco. Tobacco was grown extensively in this area during the second half of the nineteenth century and first half of the twentieth century. After being cultivated, cut, dried, and packed in enormous hogshead barrels, the tobacco was transported by wagon to river wharf warehouses. The crop was then loaded onto steamboats and transported to distant markets for processing and manufacture.
Smaller steamboats that could ply the narrower and shallow Kentucky River emerged with great regularity in the mid-nineteenth century. Steamboats such as the "Blue Wing," "Wren," "Falls City," "Sonoma," "Park City," and the "City of Frankfort" made runs up and down the Kentucky River and to Ohio River markets, including Louisville, Cincinnati, and Madison, Indiana.
Steamboats not only brought economic benefits to river towns such as Monterey, they also brought entertainment in the form of showboats. These floating concerts were especially popular during the summer months when they would work the river circuits staying in towns for a few days before moving on to the next venue.
Today, Monterey has developed a strong close-knit crafts community where writers, printers, woodworkers, potters, and quilters all produce goods that highlight Kentucky's traditions and that evoke days gone by.