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A state situated between the parallels of latitude 36° 30 and 39°6' N., and between the meridians 82° and 89°38' W. The name is Indian — Kantuckee — and is said by some to signify "prairie or meadow land" in allusion to the large treeless area found in the south central part of the state at the time of the advent of the white man; by others it is said to mean "Dark and bloody ground", the region having been a common battle-ground for the various Indian tribes in the adjoining territory. The latter is the more popular interpretation, but there does not seem to be any more satisfactory authority for the one than for the other. The state is bounded on the north and northwest by the Ohio River, separating it from Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, the low water mark on the northern shore being the state line; on the east by Virginia and the Big Sandy River, which separates it from West Virginia; on the South by Tennessee and Virginia; on the west by the Mississippi River, which separates from Missouri. Its total area is 40,598 Square miles, of which 417 square miles are water. Its greatest length from east to west is about 400 miles, and its greatest width from north to south is about 180 miles.

Physical characteristics

The southeastern section of the state is mountainous, the general elevation ranging from 1000 to 1500 feet, with some crests near the southeastern border, in the Cumberland and Pine Mountains, rising to a height of 3000 feet. North and west of this section is the famous Blue-Grass Region, gently undulating in formation with an elevation of about 800-900 feet. On the south and west of the Blue Grass country is a limestone plateau sloping from an elevation of about 1200 feet in the east to about 400 feet in the west. Portions of this plateau are marked by cone-shaped hills rising to as height of about 1000 or 1200 feet, and in another portion frequent sinks, or depressions, are found through which the surface water finds is way into underground passages. Many caves or caverns exist in this region, the most notable being the Mammoth Cave, the largest natural cavern in the world. Western Kentucky, particularly west of the Tennessee River, is low and sandy. The mean annual temperature is about 55° Fahrenheit. Extremes of cold and heat are infrequent and of short duration. The mean rainfall is 46 inches, with a somewhat greater precipitation along the southern border. The Blue-Grass Region, an area of about 10,000 square miles, has a blue limestone sub-structure, the disintegration of which renders the soil very fertile. The bottoms, along the rivers, on account of the alluvial deposit, are likewise very productive. The mountainous southeastern portion of the state is generally unfit for agriculture, and the extreme western portion, where the soil is formed from weathered sandstone, is must less fertile and productive than the limestone territory, though the area incapable of cultivation is less than one-sixth of the whole.

Population and wealth

The population of the state, according to the Federal Census for 1880, was 1,648,690; for 1890 it was 1,858,635; and 2,147,174 for 1900. In 1909 it was estimated (Federal Census Department) at 2,406,859. In 1900 there were 50,249 persons of foreign birth and 284,706 negroes. Ten other states have a larger negro population, and the increase in this race is materially less than among the whites. There are no Indians, and the number of Chinese and Japanese is probably less that 100 in the entire state. The largest cities with their respective populations are as follows: Louisville (1900) 204,731 (Federal estimate for 1909: 236,688); Covington (1900) 42,938 (Federal estimate for 1909: 51,715); Newport (1900), 28,301 (Federal estimate for 1909: 31,345; Lexington (1900), 26,369 (Federal estimate for 1909: 30,690).

Material resources

The total assessed valuation of property in 1908 was $750,393,881 of which $559,176,016 was real estate and $191,226,865 was personalty. The new revenue of the State for that year was $3,601,969.40. In 1909 there were 148 national banks in Kentucky, with an aggregate capital stock of $17,078,500, an aggregate surplus of $6,283,739.56, and individual deposits amounting to $53,487,487.16. The total resources of the national banks of Kentucky aggregate $114,158,595.84. There are 406 state banks and trust companies with an aggregate capital of $19,642,770, an aggregate surplus of $5,304,746, and deposits aggregating $66,947,965.84.


The chief mineral products of Kentucky are coal (the most important of all), petroleum, natural gas, fluorspar, clay products, and limestone. The total mineral output for 1907 amounted in value to $19,294,341.


Of the total area of Kentucky in 1900, farm lands occupied 85.9 per cent, and of this 62.5 per cent was improved. The average size of the farms has steadily decreased. In 1909 the average was 93.7 acres, which is less than half what it was fifty years previous. More than 67 per cent of the farms are operated by owners of the land. Indian corn (maize) is the principal crop, exceeding in average and value that of all the other leading crops combined. In 1908 the total area planted in Indian corn was 3,336,000 acres; in wheat, 758,000 acres; in oats, 173,000 acres; in hay, 500,000 acres; in tobacco, 240,000 acres. The total value of all principal crops in 1908 was $92,566,600. Kentucky produces nearly all the hemp grown in the United States; but the demand for this product has so far decreased that in 1900 only 14,107 acres were planted in the state. More tobacco is grown in Kentucky than in any other state in the Union, the product being twice as much as that of North Carolina, which is next in rank. The Kentucky crop, usually equals one-third of the total production of the United States.


On account of the climate, the large production of grain, and the excellence of the pasturage, stock-raising is very extensively carried on. The total value of live stock in 1909 was $95,100,000 horses, $37,905,000; mules, $21,942,000; horned cattle, $25,312,000; other live stock, $9,941,000. The Blue-Grass Region is the home of the Kentucky thoroughbred, the best known and most highly valued horse in America. No other part of the country devotes so much attention to the raising of horses of fine breed, and nowhere else in America are so many farms devoted exclusively to this business. The centre of the industry is in Fayette County, though many valuable breeding farms are in the adjoining counties.


Kentucky is an agricultural state. Its manufactures depend largely upon the products of its farms. Corn- and grist-mills are its principal manufacturing enterprises. Other enterprises closely allied with the products of the soil are the manufacture of tobacco, distilled and malt liquors, lumber and timber products. A comparison of industrial conditions in 1900 and in 1905 shows an increase in the latter year of 75.4 per cent in capital invested, 26.5 in wages paid, and 20.6 in value of output. Although Kentucky is the leading tobacco-growing state in the country, there has been a decrease in the manufacture of this product in the state, so that Kentucky, formerly the second state in the Union in the value of its output of manufactured chewing and smoking tobacco and snuff, is now third, with a total output of $13,117,000 for the year 1905.


The Ohio River affords a means of transportation along the full length of the state's northern boundary, and the Mississippi River on the west. The Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers are navigable for steamboats across the entire width of the state, and the Kentucky and Green Rivers are navigable for more that one hundred miles of their course. In 1900 there were 3093 miles of railroad, and 3574 miles in 1908. The total valuation of railroad property for purposes of taxation in 1908 was $63,753,699; and gross receipts for the same year were $40,464,504, and the net earnings $11,641,956.


The Kentucky State University, a public institution owned by the state, is located at Lexington in Fayette County. Each county is entitled annually to send one student to the university for each 3000 white pupils in its public schools, and one for each fraction of 3000 over 1500, based on the last official census preceding the appointment. Each county is entitled to at least one appointment. Students, except those entered solely in the Departments of law and medicine, are entitled to free tuition, room rent, fuel, light, and all other advantages of the university. This institution was formerly the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Kentucky, and was established in 1865. By an Act of the Legislature, in 1908, the name was changed and it became the State University. The total number of students in all departments in 1909 was 772, and there were 61 professors and assistants. There are two normal schools for the training of white teachers, one at Richmond, in Madison County, and the other at Bowling Green, in Warren County. There is also a normal school for coloured students at Frankfort (the state capital), in Franklin County. All of these institutions are maintained by public taxation.

Each county in the state, excluding cities and towns having separate school systems, and graded school districts whose tax levy is not less that 20 cents, constitutes a school district. Each district is divided into educational divisions. There may be four, six, or eight of these divisions, as deemed expedient. Educational divisions are required to contain as nearly as possible an equal number of pupils. Each of these educational divisions is in turn divided into school districts, and each school district elects one trustee. The trustees from the school districts constitute a division board, and organize as such for the purpose of caring for the schools in their respective educational divisions. The chairmen of the division boards constitute the county board of education, and this county board has general supervision over all educational matters in the county; is authorized to establish, and when established has charge of the county high schools; estimates the needs and requirements of the schools and certifies to the county governing body the amount of money necessary to be raised for school purposes in the county. The county is required to levy a tax on the general school district not exceeding 20 cents on every $100 of the assessed value of property in the district, to meet the requirements of the County Board of Education. All cities of the first, second, third and fourth classes — i.e. all cities having a population in excess of 3000 — maintain separate school systems in accordance with the provisions of their respective charters.

The state at large levies a general tax over the entire state, and this fund is used in the payment of salaries of teachers. The local sub-divisions provide school buildings and pay all other expenses incidental to the maintenance of the schools. The total number of children of school age, according to the last school census was 739,352. The actual number enrolled in the public schools was 441,377, and the average daily attendance 293,691. The total number of teachers was about 9000. In 1908, there were 24,610 Catholic children attending the Catholic schools of the state. There was expended in the last fiscal year by the state and local taxing districts for public school purposes, exclusive of expenditures for the State University, normal schools, schools for the blind, deaf and dumb, etc., $3,891,936.65.

Charities and correction

There are three asylums for the insane: one situated at Lexington in Fayette County, another at Lakeland in Jefferson County, and third at Hopkinsville in Christian County. All of these institutions have competent superintendents and physicians in charge. Inmates who are without means are maintained by the state. There is an institution for feeble-minded children at Frankfort, where children between the age of six and eighteen years whose condition of mind is such that they can be taught to read or write, and can be educated to do work, are received, and if unable to pay are maintained by the state. At Danville, in Boyle County, the Kentucky School for the Deaf is established, and near Louisville, in Jefferson County, there is an institution for the education of the blind. Indigent and afflicted children are received at these institutions and educated at the expense of the state. The Kentucky Confederate Home, for the benefit of Kentucky's indigent and infirm veterans of the Confederacy, is in Jefferson County, and is maintained by the state. The legislature makes annual appropriations for the support of the Kentucky Children's home society, a private corporation devoted to the care of homeless and destitute children, and it has also made an appropriation for the assistance of a sanitarium at Louisville for the treatment of persons afflicted with tuberculosis.

There are two state prisons: one at Frankfort, and the other Eddyville in Lyon County. The management is by a board of commissioners of three members elected by the Legislature, and the convicts are worked under the contract system. The prison commissioners have the power to parole prisoners, except in cases of rape or incest, or where the prisoner has previously served a term of imprisonment or broken his parole. Prisoners convicted of murder cannot be paroled until they have served at least five years. The governor has the power of granting reprieves or pardons in all cases except treason, in which case the General Assembly alone has the power of granting the pardon. Houses of reform for boys and girls are established in Fayette County. Juvenile offenders under twenty-one years of age are committed to these institutions. The courts are authorized to fix an indeterminate sentence for such offenders, so as to keep them confined until they have attained the age of twenty-one. The management of these institutions is vested in the prison commissioners, who have power to parole and discharge such inmates whenever their conduct is such as to warrant the belief that they will in future conduct themselves properly.

General history

Kentucky was originally a part of Fincastle County, Virginia. It became a separate county in 1776. Dating as far back as 1543, when De Soto's survivor's descended the Mississippi River as far as Kentucky, there are records of numerous expeditions into the state. In 1654 Colonel Wood, an Englishman, is said to have explored as far as what is now the western boundary of the state, and in 1673 the renowned Jesuit missionary, Father Jacques Marquette, descended the Mississippi as far as the Ohio. From Marquette we have the first authentic account of the Indian tribes inhabiting what is now the western portion of the state. In 1730 John Salling, while exploring the Roanoke River, was captured by the Indians and carried through Kentucky to the Tennessee River. He was afterwards captured by the Illinois tribe and taken to Kaskaskia, where he was ransomed. A Frenchman named Longueil descended the Ohio in 1739, and discovered Big Bone Lick in what is now Boone County, and in 1747 Dr. Thomas Walker of Virginia crossed the Cumberland Mountains and discovered the Cumberland and Kentucky Rivers. The most extensive explorations, and the most important as bearing upon the actual settlement of Kentucky, were made about the year 1769 by Daniel Boone, John Findlay, and four others from North Carolina. Part of this expedition returned after a short time, but Boone remained in Kentucky for two years and then returned to North Carolina, intending a lead a party into Kentucky for permanent settlement. In 1774 John Harrod conducted a party of forty persons into the territory and settled at Harrodsburg. The year following, Daniel Boone brought his party and erected a fort and established a settlement at Boonesboro.

These were the first settlements in Kentucky. There were no resident Indian tribes in the central and eastern portion of the territory at this time, but numerous bands of savages traversed it, and the first settlers were constantly harassed, the fort at Boonesboro being attacked three times in 1777 and 1778. In 1775 Richard Henderson purchased from the Cherokee Indians many thousands square miles of land in Kentucky and attempted to organize a separate state under the name of Transylvania. He proceeded to the extent of sending a delegate to Congress, but his representative was not recognized, and Virginia declared his purchase from the Indians invalid. In 1778 about twenty families accompanied General George Rogers Clark upon his expedition against the British posts in Illinois. They landed on a large island just above the Falls of the Ohiio River, directly opposite the present site of Louisville, and immediately erected blockhouses and established a settlement. The following year a portion of these settlers moved to the main shore and erected a fort at a point which is now the foot of Twelfth Street. On 17 April 1779, a public meeting was held and the town was definitely established by the election of trustees. There is no record indicating the religious belief of any of these early settlers, but from some of the names appearing in the records of the town prior to 1800, it is fair to assume that there were a number of Irish Catholics.

In 1780 Virginia, in order to afford a better government, divided Kentucky into three counties, but the settlers, who had by this time become quite numerous, believed that their interest would be better served by separation from the parent state. Eight separate conventions were held before a satisfactory agreement of separation was arrived at, and it was not until July, 1790, that the territory was formally separated. By an Act of 1 February, 1791, Congress authorized the admission of Kentucky into the Union, the Act to become effective 1 June 1792. In April, 1792, the first Constitutional Convention assembled at Danville in what is now Boyle County, and adopted a constitution. The first Legislature met at Lexington in June, 1792, elected Isaac Shelby governor, and decided upon Frankfort as the capital of the state. In 1799 a second Constitution was adopted, which made the governor and other state officers elective by the people. The second Constitution remained in force from 1800 to 1850, at which time a new Constitution was adopted which remained in force until 1891, when the present Constitution became effective, upon its ratification by the people.

One of the most interesting incidents in the history of Kentucky was what is known as the Old-Court and New-Court controversy. In the early days of Kentucky coin had been very scarce, and commerce among the people had been carried on generally by the bartering of merchandise. In 1802, under the pretext of forming a company for insuring cargoes on the western waters, the Kentucky Insurance company obtained a charter from the Legislature in which there was fraudulently inserted a clause giving it the right to issue paper money. Thus commenced a period of wild-cat money. Between 1806 and 1820 more that forty banks were chartered with similar power and with an aggregate capital of $9,920,000. These banks were generally conducted in a very loose and unbusinesslike manner. The state was flooded with paper money, and a period of wild speculation followed, resulting in the inevitable panic. To afford relief, the Legislature, between the years 1822 and 1826, passed various laws but the Court of Appeals held them unconstitutional. In 1824 the Legislature, exasperated by the action of the Court of Apeals, attempted to legislate the court out of office and to establish a new court. One of the bitterest fights in the history of the state followed. The old court declined to recognize the right of the Legislature to oust it from office, and refuse to recognize as constitutional the court established by the Legislature. In 1826 the issue of the old court and the new court brought about an election, characterized by the most intense excitement, which resulted in the triumph of the Old-Court party, and the election of a Legislature which repealed the Acts attempting to establish the new court.

Kentucky has taken a very active part in the military affairs of the nation. In the war of 1812 about 7000 troops — a number far in excess of Kentucky's pro rata — served in the Federal army. A portion of these soldiers served in the North under Harrison, and the balance in the South under Jackson. At the battle of New Orleans fully one-fourth of Jackson's army was made up of Kentuckians. In the Mexican War Kentucky's quota should have been 2400 men, but she sent more than 10,000. And in the Civil War, when the people of the state were divided in their sympathies, about 80,000 men enlisted in the Federal army and about 40,000 in the confederate army.

The Know-nothing lodges made their appearance in Kentucky in 1854, and spread with the utmost rapidity; so much so that in 1855 the American, or Know-nothing Party elected its candidates for governor and the other state offices. Intense bitterness towards Catholics was manifested all over the state at this election, but in the city of Louisville fanatical frenzy reached its climax. A mob dominated the city of election day (Bloody Monday), Catholics were assaulted, their property plundered, and their houses destroyed. Twenty-two persons killed, many wounded, and more than twenty houses of Catholics destroyed, was the sum of the outrages of this day of horrors. The city government was under the control of the Know-nothings and no serious effort was made to protect life or property. Insult and violence were the lot of the Catholic people on all sides. Fortunately, the good sense of the people rebelled against the domination of this party of violence; its candidates were defeated in the general election of the following year, and with a few years the last vestige of the party disappeared. (See also DIOCESE OF LOUISVILLE.)


Growth of the Church in Kentucky

The Boone family were among the first Catholic settlers of Maryland, and upon the strength of this fact it has been contended that Daniel Boone was a Catholic. Nothing, however, that is recorded of the life of this famous Kentucky pioneer seems to support this contention. In all probability, Dr. George Hart and William Coombes, who accompanied John Harrod, and settled at Harrodsburg in 1774, were the first Catholic settlers. Dr. Hart, if not the first, was certainly one of the first physicians to settle in Kentucky. He practised his profession at Harrodsburg until about the year 1786, when he moved to the vicinity of Bardstown, in what is now Nelson County, in order to join his co-religionists who had recently emigrated from Maryland.

The first distinctively Catholic body of immigrants came from Maryland in the year 1785. A league of sixty families, mostly from St. Mary's County in that state, was formed for the purpose of emigrating to Kentucky, and in the same year twenty-five of these families, under the leadership of Basil Hayden, arrived in Kentucky and settled near the present site of Bardstown (Nelson County). In the following year, a second settlement, about ten miles distant from the first, but on better lands, was begun by Edward and Charles Beaven. Between this date and 1795 five separate bodies of Catholic immigrants settled in the vicinity of these earlier settlements, and a thriving Catholic colony was begun. In 1786 one of the companies of immigrants, while on its way to join the first settlers in Nelson County, attracted by the beauty and fertility of the country through which they were passing, decided to go no farther, and settled in what is now Scott County, near the centre of the famous Blue-Grass Region. By 1796 it is estimated that there were 300 Catholic families in Kentucky.

The first missionary priest to reach Kentucky was the Rev. M. Whelan, who came in the year 1787 with a band of immigrants under the leadership of Edward Howard. In 1790 Father Whelan returned to Maryland. Six months later the Rev. Wm. De Rohan arrived, but without faculties and unaccredited to Kentucky. He performed such service as he could, but the settlements were without full priestly attention until 1793, at which time the Rev. Stephen Theodore Badin and the Rev. M. Barriêres were sent to Kentucky by the Bishop of Baltimore. Father Barriêres remained but four months, but Father Badin laboured in the mission for about twenty-six years. After the departure of Father Barriêres, for three years Father Badin was the only priest in the whole of Kentucky. In 1797 the Rev. M.J.C. Fournier and, in 1799, the Rev. Anthony Salmon joined Father Badin, but the latter of these two companions of Father Badin was killed by a fall from a horse nine months after his arrival, and Father Fournier died in 1803. Again Father Badin was alone in Kentucky until 1805, when the Rev. Charles Nerinckx, a native of Belgium, joined him. Father Nerinckx laboured in the state for nineteen years, sharing with his associate all the hardships of this most trying mission, and by his wonderful zeal and great piety materially promoting the progress and prosperity of the Church. A French colony under the leadership John A. and Louis Tarascon arrived at Louisville in the year 1806 and settled near the Falls of the Ohio, to engage in the milling business, utilizing the falls for power. These colonists were, or at least should have been, Catholics, but the early missionaries do not appear to have considered them very faithful children of the Church. However, when the first church was built, in 1811, the name of J.A. Tarascon appears on the list of trustees for the new parish. Father Badin was the first pastor, and continued as such until 1817, when he was succeeded by the Rev. G.I. Chabrat, like him, a Frenchman, who was in turn succeeded by the Rev. Philip Horstman, a native American.

In 1808 the Diocese of Bardstown was erected, to include in its jurisdiction the whole of Kentucky as well as Tennessee (see DIOCESE OF LOUISVILLE). In 1841 the see was transferred to Louisville, and in 1853 the establishment of the Diocese of Covington brought into existence the present ecclesiastical division of the State of Kentucky into the two dioceses of Louisville and Covington.

Kentucky enjoys the distinction of having been the first great nursery of the Faith in the United States west of the Alleghenies. Closely connected with this fact (which will be more especially dealt with in the article DIOCESE OF LOUISVILLE) was a remarkably early development of new religious congregations in the old Diocese of Bardstown. In Marion County, the Sisterhood of Loretto, founded in 1812 as "Friends of Mary at the Foot of the Cross", and, in Nelson County, the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, founded in the same year, were almost, if not quite, the earliest religious institutes to originate in the United States (see SISTERS OF LORETTO; SISTERS OF CHARITY OF NAZARETH). Of the older institutes of women, the Sisters of the Third Order of St. Dominic have been established in Kentucky since 1822; the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, since 1842; Ursuline Nuns, since 1858; Benedictine Nuns, since 1859; Sister of the Poor of St. Francis, since 1860; Visitandines, since 1864; Sisters of Mercy, since 1867; Little Sisters of the Poor, since 1869; The Sisters of Notre Dame and others have come into the state more recently.

Among the religious orders of men, the Order of Preachers found their first home in the United States near Springfield, Washington County, Kentucky (St. Rose of Lima, 1806), where they are still flourishing; the Trappists founded their famous Abbey of Gethsemani, in Nelson County, in 1848; the Franciscans took charge of the parish of St. Boniface, Louisville, in 1849; the Benedictines came to Covington in 1858. Other male religious orders and congregations in Kentucky are the Passionists, Xaverian Brothers, Brothers of Mary, and Fathers of the Resurrection. The total Catholic Population of the state is estimated at 189,854, about three-fourths of that number (which includes upwards of 4000 coloured Catholics) being in the Diocese of Louisville.

Legislation directly affecting religion

The Bill of Rights of the Constitution of Kentucky guarantees to all citizens the right to worship God according to the dictates of their conscience, and it also provides that no public funds raised for educational purposes shall be used in the aid of any church, or any sectarian or denominational school. It is further provided by statute that no sectarian, infidel, or immoral publications shall be used or distributed in the common schools of the state; nor shall any sectarian, infidel, or immoral doctrine be taught therein. The court of last resort in Kentucky, in construing these provisions of the constitution and Statutes (Hackett v. Graded School, 120 Ky. 608), held that they are not violated by reading verses from the King James Version of the Bible, without note or comment, nor by the recital of the following prayer:

Our Father who are in heaven we ask Thy aid in our day's work. Give us wisdom and strength and patience to teach these children as they should be taught, may teacher and pupil have mutual love and respect. Watch over these children both in the schoolroom and on the playground. Keep them from being hurt in any way, and at last when we come to die may none of our number be missing around Thy throne. These things we ask in Christ's name.

The laws of the state provide that no work or business shall be done on Sunday except the ordinary household offices or other work of necessity or charity, or work required in the operation of a ferry, skiff, steamboat, or steam or street railway. But persons who belong to a religious society which observes some other day than Sunday are not liable for the penalties provided in this act if they actually observe as a Sabbath one day in each seven. There are specific enactments penalizing the sale of liquor, barbering, pool and billiard playing, and hunting. The enforcement of the law with reference to Sunday observance is very lax, particularly in the cities. So also with reference to the sale of liquor on Sunday. In some of the cities this law is not enforced at all, in others some effort is made its enforcement, and in some places it is rigidly enforced. The law provides that if any proceeding is directed by law to take place, or any act is directed to be done on a particular day of the month, and that day happens to fall on Sunday, the proceeding shall be had, or the act done on the following day.

Oaths may be administered by any judge of a court, notary public, clerk of a court, examiner, master commissioner, or justice of the peace within his district or county. Persons refusing for conscientious reasons to take an oath may affirm. The oath is ordinarily administered by the officer and the person to be sworn, both raising their right hands, the officer repeating the oath and the person responding: I do. Testimony taken out of the state, to be used in proceedings in the courts of the state, may be taken before a commissioner appointed by the governor or by any other person empowered by commission directed to him by consent of the parties, or by order of a court; or before the judge of a court, justice of the peace, mayor of a city, or a notary public.

Any person profanely cursing or swearing is liable to a fine of one dollar for each offence, and every oath is deemed a separate offence. If the offence is committed in the presence of a court of record or justice of the peace, the said court or justice may instantly, without further proof, inflict the penalty. Instances of the enforcement of this law are very rare.

There is no law providing for prayer at the sessions of the Legislature, but it is the custom to open the daily session of both branches of the general assembly with prayer. The ministers of the various denominations representing the churches of the capital city are invited without prejudice or partiality. The Catholic priest takes his turn with the others.

The only religious holidays recognized by law are Christmas and New Year's Day. Other legal holidays are Washington's Birthday, Decoration Day (May 30), Independence Day, Labor Day (first Monday in September), and all days specially designated by the President of the United States or the governor of the state.

No clergyman or priest, without the consent of the person confessing, is permitted to testify concerning any confession made to him in his professional character in the course of discipline enjoined by the Church to when he belongs.

Any number of persons may associate to form a corporation, having no capital stock, for religious, charitable or educational purposes. Incorporation may be effected by the persons concerned filing articles of incorporation with the Secretary of State, and having the same recorded in the county court of the county where the corporation intends to conduct is business. The articles must set forth the name of the proposed corporation, the object for which it is organized, and such other facts as the incorporators deem proper to mention. Such corporations have the right to contract and be contracted with, to sue and be sued, to have and use a common seal, and to receive and hold property. They are not subject to the general laws relating to corporations, except that they must designate an agent upon whom service of process may be had, and that they are at all times subject of visitation by the Legislature.

Places actually used for religious worship, with the grounds attached thereto, not exceeding one-half acre in cities and towns, and not exceeding two acres in the country; places of burial not held for profit; institutions of purely public charity and institutions of education not used or employed for gain; all parsonages and residences owned by any religious society and occupied as a home and for no other purpose by the minister of any religious denomination, with not exceeding one-half acre in the city, and two acres in the country, are exempt from taxation. This constitutional provision has been construed so as to bring within its meaning seminaries for the education of young men for the ministry, even though is management is denominational. So also other educational institutions under similar control, even though tuition is charged. Property of the Young Men's Christian Association is also held exempt under this provision of the constitution, so also orphan asylums and homes for sick, indigent, and homeless persons are held exempt, even though they are denominationally controlled; provided they are not operated for gain. The expression "purely public charity" used in the Constitution, has been defined by the Court of Appeals of Kentucky as meaning a charity which performs in whole or in part a duty which the Commonwealth owes to the sick, indigent, homeless, and helpless. All institutions, therefore, which aid the state in the performance of this duty are exempt from taxation. These exemptions, however, do not apply to local assessments for street-improvements, against which there is no exemption provided by law.

Clergymen are not required to serve on petit juries, though they may do so. But there is not such exemption from service on grand juries. Militia service in actual practice is, or course, purely voluntary, but clergymen are not exempt in the event of enforced enlistment.

Marriage and divorce

Marriage is prohibited and void (1) when either party is an idiot or lunatic: (2) when either of the parties has a husband or wife living and undivorced; (3) when not contracted in the presence of an authorized person or society, provided, however, that if the person attempting to perform the marriage ceremony had no authority, and yet either of the parties believed he had such authority, and the marriage is consummated under that belief, it will be valid; (4) when at the time of the marriage the male is under fourteen and the female is under twelve years of age; (5) when one person is white and the other is a negro. A man is not permitted to marry his mother, grandmother, sister, or grandchild, nor the widow of divorced with of his father, grandfather, son, or grandson, nor the daughter, granddaughter, mother, or grandmother of his wife, nor the daughter or granddaughter of his brother or sister, nor the sister of his father or mother. A woman cannot marry her father, grandfather, brother, son, or grandson; nor the widower or divorced husband of her mother, grandmother, daughter, or granddaughter; nor the son, grandson, father, or grandfather of her husband; nor the son or grandson of her brother or sister, or the brother of her father or mother. All marriages coming within any of the above-mentioned degrees of relationship are void. If, however, a marriage is valid where contracted it will be recognized as valid in Kentucky. Marriage may be solemnized by a minister or priest of any denomination in regular communion with any religious society, who has obtained a license for that purpose from the county court of the county of his residence. The county judge and such justices of the peace as the county court may authorize may solemnize marriages or it may be solemnized by consent given in the presence of a religious society having no officiating minister, where either party is a member of such religious society, and the ceremony is in conformity with the usage prevailing in such society.

Judgments in divorce cases are entered without the intervention of a jury. Courts of general equity jurisdiction hear and determine all such actions. Divorce may be granted for the following reasons:

Divorced persons may marry again, but only one divorce shall be granted the same person, except where adultery or one of the grounds for which divorce may be granted to both parties is charged. Divorce from bed and board may be granted for any of the causes above mentioned or for any other cause deemed sufficient by the court. An absolute divorce restores to the parties all property obtained from the other either before or during marriage in consideration thereof. The custody of children is determined by the chancellor from the proof in the case.

Sale of intoxicants

Under the operation of local-option laws 96 of the 119 counties of the state have voted out liquor. The larger cities, however, are not affected by these laws. It is forbidden to ship liquor into local option territory, but this law is generally not effective because it cannot affect shipments from points outside the state.

Wills and testaments

Every person more that twenty-one years of age may dispose of his or her estate by will. Wills are required to be attested by two subscribing witnesses unless wholly written and signed by the testator in person. There is no limitation upon charitable bequest, but the State imposes a tax of 5 per cent upon all bequests over $500, including those for charitable purposes, except where made to husband or wife, father or mother, child or children or their lineal descendants, or the husband or wife of a daughter or son.


All cemeteries not conducted for profit are exempt from taxation. The directors or trustees of incorporated cemeteries are required by law to make a full and complete report of the financial condition of the association to the stock-holders and lot-owners. Severe penalties are provided for unlawfully disinterring bodies or for the mutilation of graves or monuments.


WEBB, The Centenary of Catholicity in Kentucky (Louisville, 1884); COLLINS, Historical Sketches of Kentucky (Louisville, 1847); ed. RICHARD COLLINS (Louisville, 1874); BUTLER, The History of the Commonwealth of Kentucky (Louisville, 1834); MARSHALL, The History of Kentucky (Frankfort, 1824); DURRETT, The Centenary of Kentucky (Louisville, 1892).

About this page

APA citation. Tracy, F. (1910). Kentucky. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Tracy, Frank. "Kentucky." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 8. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Pat and Gordon Hermes.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. October 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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