Explorers & Pioneers

From its very beginnings, Kentucky was a place for the adventurous and courageous, unafraid and undeterred by the prospects of a hardscrabble life. Some Kentucky pioneers and frontiersmen became renowned in American history, and helped shape the country we know today. Discover several of these fearless Kentucky explorers and pioneers below.
Judge Roy Bean (1825-1903)
A justice of the peace and saloon keeper, he became the self-proclaimed "Law West of the Pecos" in Langtry, Texas. Born in Mason County, died at Langtry.
Stephen Bishop* (c1821- June 15, 1857)
First 19th century guide and early explorer of Mammoth Cave. He explored large areas of the cave and created maps which doubled its known areas at that time. First person to cross the "Bottomless Pit" and to map previously unexplored areas of the cave beyond that point. Buried in the "Old Guides Cemetery" on a hill above the cave.
Daniel Boone* (November 2, 1734-1820)
Hunted and explored Kentucky (1767-74.) Cleared the Wilderness Road and founded Fort Boonesborough, 1775. Born in Berks County, Pennsylvania, died in Osage Creek, Missouri, buried in Frankfort.
James Bowie (April 10, 1796-1836)
Hero of the Alamo, designer of the Bowie knife. Born in Logan County, died at “The Battle of the Alamo,” San Antonio, Texas.
Christopher Houston "Kit" Carson (December 24, 1809-1868)
Indian agent, trapper, scout. Born in Madison County, died at Fort Lyon, Colorado.
George Rogers Clark* (November 19, 1752-1818)
American Revolution frontier general and explorer, secured the Northwest Territory for the U.S., founder of Louisville, 1778. Born in Albemarle County, Virginia, died in Louisville, buried at Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville.
William Floyd Collins (July 20, 1887-1925)
Explorer whose entrapment and death in a cave became one of the most widely reported stories in the 1920s. Born in the Mammoth Cave area of Kentucky, died in nearby Sand Cave.
James Harrod* (1742-1793)
Frontiersman, founder of Harrodsburg, first permanent settlement west of the Alleghenies, in 1774. Born in Bedford County, Pennsylvania, died unknown.
Simon Kenton* (April 3, 1755-1836)
Frontier explorer, soldier, scout for Daniel Boone and George Rogers Clark. Born at Bull Run Mountains, Virginia, died at New Jerusalem, Ohio.
Dr. Thomas Walker* (January 25, 1715-1794)
Led the first documented expedition through the Cumberland, Gap, 1750. Born in Walkerton, Virginia, died in Castle Hill, Albemarle County, Virginia.
York* (1770-Before 1832)
Born into slavery and enslaved by the family of William Clark, he participated in the Corps of Discovery, Lewis and Clark Expedition from 1803 to 1806, where he proved to be a valuable explorer and member of that team. There are contradictory accounts of his later life and death. Born in Ladysmith, Caroline County, Virginia, died before 1832.
*Denotes not born in Kentucky