County Named, 1835

Historical Marker #811 in Albany remembers DeWitt Clinton, Clinton County's namesake.

Early nineteenth century Americans respected public and military figures who accomplished great feats. Citizens showed their admiration for the era's idols in different ways. Some named boats, race horses, and even their children after major politicians such as Henry Clay, Andrew Jackson, or John C. Calhoun. Others erected monuments in honor of heroes of the American Revolution or the War of 1812. And, some named newly-established places for the time period's exceptional individuals.

When Clinton County, Kentucky, was formed from parts of Cumberland and Wayne Counties in 1835, it chose New Yorker DeWitt Clinton as its namesake. Clinton was born in 1769, into a respected and politically-connected family. After graduating from King's College (later Columbia University) he entered politics and was elected to the New York legislature. After a brief tenure in the U.S. Senate, Clinton was elected as the mayor of New York City for three non-consecutive terms. From 1811 to 1813, Clinton served briefly as lieutenant governor. During that period, he ran for president as the Federalist Party nominee, but lost to James Madison.

Clinton's greatest accomplishment, however, was during his time as governor of New York. In 1817, he was chosen as New York's sixth governor. Clinton had previously served on a committee that had proposed the construction of a canal that linked Lake Erie to the Hudson River, and thus New York City. This commercial waterway linked New York's expanding west to the established east and provided a means of exchange between the two sections. The New York legislature appropriated funds for the construction of the project in 1817.

Clinton's second term as governor (1825-1828) witnessed the completion of the Erie Canal. During its construction, Clinton received negative press for its expense and how long it took to be built. When it was completed, however, "Clinton’s Big Ditch" turned out to be a major economic success for New York, and a respected accomplishment for the governor.

Clinton's other political accomplishments included improving public education in New York, promoting steam navigation and other internal improvements, and modifying laws concerning debtors. Clinton died suddenly in 1828, but, due to his successes, he was hailed as an exceptional man of the time. His influence was marked by becoming the namesake for towns and cities in more than thirteen different states and having counties in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Michigan, Iowa, and, of course, Kentucky, named in his honor.