With the current talk about immigrants and refugees in the news, it is useful to understand that questions related to immigration and refugees are not new. The KHS resources below document stories of immigration and show how Kentuckians across the centuries dealt with these questions.
- The Caroline Chronicles. An African American war refugee is accused of murder in 1863 Louisville. A podcast, blog series, and classroom activity reveals the debate over her future between citizens, leaders, and faith groups.
- “Translation: William Brockman.” Two German immigrants get in a deadly altercation in the suburbs of Louisville. Read about how CWGK used their story to map 1860s social networks.
- William DeB. Morrill, August 8, 1865. A war widow and refugee from Rockcastle Co. flees after guerrilla fighters burned her farm, killed her livestock, and wounded one of her children.
- C. F. Hagedorn to James F. Robinson, April 9, 1863. A Bavarian diplomat asks the Governor of Kentucky “about womens rights in your Commonweath” on behalf of potential immigrants to Kentucky.
- Thomas E. Bramlette, Annual Message, December 1865. At the end of the Civil War, the Governor of Kentucky lays out the danger of state immigration laws directed at recently emancipated African Americans—while still arguing to limit the civil rights African Americans were afforded in Kentucky and elsewhere in the United States. “[S]ome State, in order to force the freedmen from its limits, and prevent others from immigrating thereto, would adopt laws so hostile as to amount to worse than enslavement; others would, in self-defense, pursue similar and more stringent enactments;… and thus this unfortunate race would be driven by persecuting laws, with no place of refuge and no means of defense, until the voice of the civilized world would be raised against the iniquity of our proceedings.”
Register of the Kentucky Historical Society
- Nancy D. Baird, ed., “Josie Underwood’s Civil War Diary, Part Two,” vol. 112, no. 3 (Summer 2014). A wealthy Bowling Green native and Civil War refugee flees the destruction of her home town, goes on a diplomatic tour of Europe, and resettles in San Francisco.
- Lee Shai Weissbach, “Kentucky Jewry During the Civil War,” vol. 110, no. 2 (Spring 2012). By the 1860s, Louisville had a flourishing Jewish community that supported two synagogues, catering to German and Polish immigrant communities.
- Marker #955: Ottenheim (Lincoln County) Kentucky created the State Commission of Immigration in 1880 to encourage European immigration to the commonwealth. Jacob Ottenheimer bought land in Lincoln County, established Ottenheim, and settled German, Swiss, and Austrian immigrants in the Kentucky.
- Marker #1965: Camp Nelson Refugee Camp (Jessamine County) Established in 1863, Camp Nelson was home to African American war refugees who fled slavery even before Kentucky African American men could muster into the United States Colored Troops (USCT). Camp Nelson was the largest recruiting and training center for the USCT in Kentucky. It was also the chief center for issuing emancipation papers to former slaves.
- Marker #2129 St. Andrew’s Catholic Church (Jefferson County) Established in 1851, St. Andrews was built on land donated by Prussian immigrant John Jacob Wiser. Original church featured Stations of the Cross in English, German, and French.
- Marker #2205 “Bloody Monday” and American (Know-Nothing) Party (Jefferson County) August 6, 1855 attacks on German and Irish immigrants in Louisville by Know-Nothing mobs. At least 22 people died in the riots. The Know-Nothings were an anti-immigrant, nativist political party, which feared Catholic immigrants and accused them of threatening democracy and Protestantism. By 1854, the Know-Nothings controlled the Jefferson County government. The party divided over slavery and ceased to exist, in that form, after the Civil War.
Kentucky Oral History Commission Collections
- Holocaust Survivors in Kentucky Oral History Project Interviews with 14 survivors living in Kentucky in the late 1990s. More on the collection in “This is Home Now” blog post by Arwen Donahue.
- EthniCity: Contemporary Ethnicity in the Inner Bluegrass An oral history project documenting ethnic heritage in the Inner Bluegrass, conducted in the mid-1990s.
- Immigrants of Bowling Green Oral History Project An oral history project documenting the narratives and history of recent immigrant groups who settled in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
- Louisville’s Jewish Community An oral history project documenting Louisville’s Jewish community, including history of immigration and acculturation, as well as community member’s work with refugee families in Louisville.
- Our New Kentucky Home: Immigrant Experiences Exhibition This exhibition shares the stories of immigrants who have come to Kentucky to create a better life for themselves and their families. From early settlement in the 1770s to the present day, immigrants experience hardships, challenges, successes, and joys as they make Kentucky their home.
- MSS 191: Chinese Families of Louisville, Kentucky Digital reproductions of two scrapbooks that document the lives of descendants of several Chinese families who immigrated to Louisville in the early 20th century.
- Pamphlet “Impression of Kentucky…A Good Home for Immigrants” Kentucky Geological Survey and Bureau of Immigration pamphlet from 1883. Originally published in the Louisville Courier-Journal, November 19, 1883.
- John Proctor Letter John Procter, director of Kentucky Geological Survey and Bureau of Immigration, written Feb. 16, 1881, describes a German settlement in Christian County, Kentucky.
- KHS Object Catalog includes artifacts in our collection produced by or related to immigrants living in Kentucky.
- Nick Anggelis Greek immigrant to Winchester, Kentucky, who owned a restaurant in the city.
- St. George Catholic Church Completed in 1914, St. George in Jenkins, Kentucky was home to a large European Catholic population; Father James Massa, an Italian immigrant, was the first resident priest.
- John D. Carroll An Irish immigrant to Henry County, Kentucky and state legislator, Carroll was also a lawyer and judge, as well as a delegate to the 1891 Kentucky Constitutional Convention.
- Schmidt Family George, Phillip, and William Schmidt of Germany moved to Daviess County, Kentucky in the 1840s; later anglicized their name to Smith.
Colony Bernstadt, Laurel County (16 photographs) In the early 1880s, Kentucky officials campaigned in Western Europe to attract people to the state to replace a dwindling population. Switzerland was experiencing a farm crisis and high land prices. Three Swiss men purchased 4,000 acres in Kentucky and encouraged their countrymen to settle there. Colony Bernstadt was the largest of the colonies that formed as a result of Swiss immigration. Langnau and Lily were other Laurel County colonies.
- Farmland of “Swiss Colony”
- Sunday Afternoon at Hotel
- Mrs. John Dubach and child
- William L. Maclean
- Rudolf Kanzig’s Farm
- Group of colonists at Bernstadt, Ky.
- House of E. Hauselmann (Post Office)
- A dinner in the hotel
- Mr. Paul Schenk, wife, sister, and niece
- Group of Colonists
- Group of colonists near hotel
- Cutting and gathering hay
- Fred Trosch, butcher
- Woman feeding two dogs and a calf
- Mr. and Mrs. Huber, hotel keepers
- Rev. M. Denny’s first-born