Fort Boonesborough

Historical Marker #1520 in Madison County commemorates Fort Boonesborough, the early frontier settlement established by Daniel Boone and Richard Henderson in April 1775.

Boonesborough was first envisioned by Colonel Richard Henderson of the Transylvania Land Company to serve as the capital of the proposed fourteenth colony, Transylvania. The colony was to be located on land purchased by Henderson's company from the Cherokee Indians in the Treaty of Sycamore Shoals in March, 1775. Despite objections from Virginia, who also claimed the land, the first settlement party, led by Daniel Boone, set out on March 10, 1775, to create a trail to the proposed site of the capital. They were followed by Henderson and his party ten days later. Boone's party arrived first and began building a small camp. Henderson arrived around April 20, at which point the area was surveyed.

After nearly a week of clearing the land, construction on the first fortified settlement in Kentucky began on April 29, under the direction of Daniel Boone. The colony was officially named Transylvania and the capital called Boonesborough on May 8, 1775. By the end of the month, Henderson had drawn together a plan of representative government, enacted when the House of Delegates at Boonesborough first met on May 23, 1775, to draw up laws and sign a compact between the settlers and the proprietors.

Henderson saw his dream fade when the Virginia legislature nullified his land company's rights to the Kentucky land. The purchase was fully voided in 1778. Henderson’s departure from Boonesborough soon followed. The fort at Boonesborough continued after Henderson, however, and served as a "stopping place, sanctuary, and communication point" during the Revolutionary War years. In 1779, a group of settlers successfully petitioned the Virginia legislature for a charter, officially establishing the first Kentucky town at Boonesborough. For the next several years, the town saw significant economic growth, particularly in the area of tobacco, but a largely fleeting population. By the 1820 census, Boonesborough was no longer tabulated separately, but as a part of the county totals.

While the site never reached the full potential envisioned by Richard Henderson, it did play an important role in the settlement of Kentucky and America's westward expansion. Fort Boonesborough's historical significance was cemented when it was named a National Historic Landmark.