This Day in History — May 6

On May 6, 1782, the town of Lexington was established by an act of the Virginia General Assembly. There had been settlers in the area for over five years, dating back to a party of frontiersmen who had been led by William McConnell, who originally named the area. Upon hearing of the colonists’ victory in the Battles of Lexington and Concord, on April 19, 1775, they named their campsite Lexington after Lexington, Massachusetts. In 1779, Colonel Robert Patterson and 25 companions came from Fort Harrod and erected a blockhouse. Cabins and a stockade were soon built, making the fort a place of importance. It would be three years before the Virginia Assembly would officially establish a town and another ten years before Kentucky would become a state.

By 1820, Lexington had become one of the wealthiest and most cultured towns west of the Allegheny Mountains. Home to Transylvania University, the sixteenth oldest university in the United States, the town was so cultured that it was given the nickname “Athens of the West”. Lexington would continue to grow and have a pivotal role in shaping the history of Kentucky. Many of 19th Century America’s most important people spent part of their lives in the city, including both American president Abraham Lincoln and Confederate President Jefferson Davis (who attended Transylvania University in 1823 and 1824), Civil War General John Hunt Morgan, US senator and vice president John C. Breckinridge, and US Senator, Transylvania law professor, and presidential candidate Henry Clay. Lincoln’s wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, was born and raised in Lexington; the couple visited the city several times after their marriage in 1842.

Known as “The Thoroughbred Capital of the World,” Lexington is home to both Keeneland and Red Mile racecourses and miles of rolling bluegrass horse farms. The Kentucky Horse Park just north of Lexington is host to the Rolex Kentucky Three Day event, one of the top 5 annual equestrian competitions in the world. The city will be hosting the 2010 World Equestrian Games, the world’s largest equestrian event.

Lexington has four sister cities as designated by Sister Cities International. Deauville, France, County Kildare, Ireland, Shinhidaka, Japan, and Nemarket, England are Lexington’s sister cities and all, like Lexington, are major centers for the Thoroughbred industry in their respective countries.

227 years after Lexington was established as a “town” by the Virginia Assembly, Lexington is a thriving metropolis with a home-town feel. The town is still as cultured as it was in the 1800s. Home to museums, historic homes, an opera house and other music performance venues, art galleries, festivals and even sports arenas, Lexington really has it all.

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