Bowling Green Fire Department, 1898

Bowling Green History

Bowling Green in the 1920s
Warren County was formed in 1792 and, two years later, Robert Moore, his brother George and General Elijah Covington came to Bowling Green from Virginia around 1794.  Moore donated land to county trustees for public buildings and he city of Bowling Green was  incorporated on March 6, 1798.

The origin of the name is disputed. Some say it's named for a Bowling Green in New York where a statue of King George III was pulled down and melted into bullets during the Revolution. Others that it was named after Bowling Green, Virginia. It's also said it was named for a game Robert Moore hosted called bowling on the green.

Carrie Burnam Taylor, 1880
 Bowling Green remained very small and in 1810 had only 154 residents. It slowly grew via steamboat commerce and the proximity of the Barren River.  In 1832, the first portage was made from the river to where the current county courthouse stands. Mules pulled freight and passengers to and from the city on the tracks. In 1859, the Louisville and Nashville Railroad connected the city with northern and southern markets.

Bowling Green declared itself neutral in the Civil War. Because of its prime location and resources, both the Union and Confederacy sought control of the city. Most residents sided with the Confederacy, which occupied Bowling Green on September 18, 1861. The provisional Confederate government of Kentucky chose Bowling Green as its capital in November 1861.

Bicycle, 1870

On February 14, 1862, after receiving reports that Fort Henry on the Tennessee River and Fort Donelson on the Cumberland River had been captured by Union forces, the Confederates ended their occupation. During their retreat, they destroyed bridges across the Barren River, the railroad depot and other important buildings.

The city was subject to various disruptions and raids throughout the remainder of the war. During the summer of 1864, Union general Stephen G. Burbridge arrested 22 men in and around the town on suspicion of treason. This incident and other harsh treatment by Federal authorities during the war led to bitterness among Bowling Green residents toward the Union and more sympathies with the Confederacy.

After the Civil War, Bowling Green's business district grew. Many of the business structures seen today were erected during the 1870s.  One of the most important businesses was Carie Burnam Taylor's dress-making company, which employed more than 200 women by 1906. 
Postman, 1910
 In 1868, the city constructed its first waterworks system. The fourth county courthouse was completed in 1868. (The first three were completed in 1798, 1805 and 1813 respectively.) In 1889, the first mule-drawn street cars appeared in the city. The first electric street cars began to replace them by 1895 and in 1898 the Bowling Green Fire Department was formed.

The Sisters of Charity of Nazareth founded St. Columbia's Academy in 1862, succeeded by St. Joseph's School in 1911. In 1884, the Southern Normal School, which had been founded in 1875, moved to Bowling Green from the town of Glasgow, Kentucky.

Pleasant J. Potter founded a women's college in Bowling Green in 1889. It closed in 1909 and its property sold to the Western Kentucky State Normal School (now Western Kentucky University). Other important schools in this era were Methodist Warren College, Ogden College (which also became a part of Western Kentucky University) and Green River Female College, a boarding school.
Class of 1929
In 1981, General Motors moved its Chevrolet Corvette assembly plant from St. Louis, Missouri to Bowling Green. In 1994 the National Corvette Museum was constructed near the assembly plant.

Bowling Green also has a rich musical heritage and is the 'Birthplace of Newgrass', along with other distinctions. Learn more about the music history of the area at the Kentucky Blues Society Website.

Musicians c. 1900

Photos Source: Kentucky Museum