Historical Markers #96 and #982 near Crab Orchard remember Sportsman's Hill, the home and farm of early Kentucky settler William Whitley.
Whitley was a frontiersman's frontiersman. Born in 1749 in Augusta County, Virginia, Whitley first explored the Kentucky wilderness in 1775. He returned two years later with his family and settled in Lincoln County. During the Revolutionary War, Whitley moved his family to Logan's Station (St. Asaph) in present-day Stanford for protection. He was a participant in George Rogers Clark's mission to the Northwest where the American force soundly defeated their British and Native American opponents. Upon returning to Kentucky, Whitley resettled his family on his Lincoln County lands.
As a leader in the Kentucky militia, Whitley led preemptive strikes on Native American settlements in Tennessee and Georgia in the early 1790s. He returned from his victorious tour and established his hew home, Sportsman's Hill, near Crab Orchard.
Sportsman's Hill is an excellent example of early Kentucky architecture. Built between 1787 and 1794, the house is believed to be the first brick home constructed in Kentucky. The home's design was largely for pragmatic purposes and was intended to thwart potential Native American attacks; it includes two-foot thick brick walls, elevated windows, and, originally, no porches.
Sportsman's Hill also featured a horserace track. Whitley had an oval course constructed on his property in order to enjoy his favorite pastime and entertain guests. Bucking English tradition, Whitley's track ran races counter-clockwise and was clay-based, as opposed to the standard British clockwise-running turf courses.
Whitley's disdain for the British and Native Americans prompted him to enlist for the War of 1812. Joining with other Kentuckians, he fought in the campaigns of northern Ohio, Michigan, and Canada. Whitley was killed at the Battle of the Thames in Canada on October 5, 1813, and was buried there. Whitley County, Kentucky, formed in 1818, was named in his honor.
Sportsman's Hill became a Kentucky State Park in 1938. Today, it provides engaging tours for visitors to learn about early Kentucky life and the home's namesake.