"Kentucky Colonel
Official History & Legacy of the Kentucky Colonelcy Since 1775 

Explore the authentic history and legacy of the Kentucky Colonelcy since 1775. Discover famous Kentucky Colonels, learn about the award and commission, uncover the truth behind the title, and separate fact from fiction. The official source for Kentucky Colonel history

The Origin of the Kentucky Colonel begins in 1775, where the Kentucky Colonel tradition emerged as a symbol of civilian leadership in the American frontier, a colonel was the head of a colony or colonial settlement, not a military office. Col. Richard Henderson, head of the Transylvania Company, commissioned Daniel Boone with the title of Colonel, not as a military rank, but as a leader of a vital expedition to establish the settlement of Boonesborough. Boone's team of 33 axmen forged a path from the Cumberland Gap, laying the groundwork for the future state of Kentucky. This historic events of 1775 highlight the unique role of the 1st Kentucky Colonels as the founders, pioneers, and colonial leaders that built the first democratic society.

Kentucky Colonel: 1st American Honorific Title of Authority, Greatness, and Prestige

Colonial and Early American history reveals a rich tradition of civilian leadership embodied by the title of 'colonel.' These individuals, often appointed by their peers, were instrumental in establishing communities and shaping the nascent democracy of the new nation. In the decades following 1775, colonels held considerable authority, frequently transitioning into roles of governance and leadership. Their contributions laid the foundation for the societal structures and cultural identity that characterize Kentucky and much of America today.

While the exact origins of the term "Kentucky Colonel" are multifaceted, the connection to Daniel Boone's pioneering role in Kentucky's establishment is undeniable. This association solidified in 1833 with the London production of "The Kentuckian," a play that further cemented the image of the Kentucky Colonel in the popular imagination. The title thus evolved into a cultural symbol, representing the spirit of independence, leadership, and the unique heritage of the Kentucky region.

Semiquincentennial of the Kentucke Magna Charta! 

Join Us in Celebrating the Original Recognition of the Founding of America's 1st Free Colonial Democracy by the Kentucky Colonel with the 250th Anniversary of the Traditional Office of the Kentucky Colonelcy from 1775-2025 at Boonesborough on the Kentucky River.

1st Kentucky Colonel found on the Wilderness Road in 1775

Gateway to the West – Kentucky Colonel Daniel Boone Leading The Settlers Through The Cumberland Gap
Commissioned painting for Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, titled Gateway to the West – Daniel Boone Leading The Settlers Through The Cumberland Gap, 1775 "Col. Daniel Boone is the best historical evidence we have of the origin of the Kentucky Colonel!" -Col. George Chinn (1902-1987)
Kentucky State Historical Society

Greatest Civil Honor in the United States of America, the Kentucky Colonel Commission

The story of the First Kentucky Colonel being Daniel Boone is factually and historically correct, it is not folklore or fiction, if anyone else can be credited with the creation and origin of the pioneer government of Can-tuck-ee, Colonel Boone is right there as one of its 13 first colonels, delegates and colonist settlers drafting what has become known as the "Kentucke Magna Charta" (Transylvania Constitution) in 1775. Most of the laws established by these colonels and their colonists remain in common-law today and were included by other state constitutions. 

They never would have called themselves a "Kentucky Colonel," but they were in fact the "Colonels" and they wrote laws that created the governments, made peace with the natives, surveyed the frontier and made their mark one that has survived to the present creating the customs and traditions we observe today. The fact that all this plays out in Kentucky with "colonels" as the sovereign "heads of the colony" is not a coincidence with anything more than it taking place during the Revolutionary Period before the founding of the United States or the fact that Boone originally hunted in Can-tuck-ee since June 7th, 1769.

Col. Daniel Boone is actually credited as the protagonist of the founder of the Transylvania Company, which was formed after Boone lost his son in his first settlement attempt in Kentucky. Col. Judge Richard Henderson of North Carolina befriended Boone, commissioning him a Colonel of the company that built the Wilderness Road (Wild Road) and Boonesborough. It would be almost two years before one of Boone's lieutenants, John Bowman is sent to Williamsburg to meet with Governor Patrick Henry to make the Transylvania Colony part of Virginia. The Governor made Transylvania Lt. Col. John Bowman into Commonwealth Colonel John Bowman of Kentucky County. When Col. Bowman returned to Transylvania he commissioned Daniel Boone a "Lt. Colonel" as well as many others. After that little is known of John Bowman except that he continued to commission new colonels until 1783. What we can also say about Col. Daniel Boone is that he was the "First Colonel" to be commissioned under the Patriot Law by a Private Chartered Company which was enacted on January 1, 1775, we also know he commissioned many other colonels.

Kentucky Colonel Daniel Boone

Commissioned Colonel of the Transylvania Company in 1775 by the head-of-colony Richard Henderson, makes a treaty and purchase from the Cherokee, becomes the founder of Boonesborough, and a writer of the first democratic constitution in America which today is known as the Kentucky Magna Charta. 
Kentucky Colonel - Daniel Boone, painting by Chester Harding from the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery
Colonel Daniel Boone - The man, the legend, his adventures and the myths surrounding him, he was the most famous living and mythical person in America before the War of 1812. The famous painting by Chester Harding in 1820 is the only living portrait of Daniel Boone, painted the year of his death at his home in Missouri. The work is located at the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; partial gift of the William T. Kemper Foundation and of the Chapman Hanson Foundation.

Kentucky Colonel becomes its Greatest Statesman

In contemporary state history Col. Daniel Boone is not recognized by the Commonwealth of Kentucky as its founding statesman, that title would go to Isaac Shelby who worked for Col. Daniel Boone 16 years earlier as a surveyor for the Transylvania Colony. When working for Col. Boone, Shelby a young impressionable surveyor learned the secret order of the colonel. Isaac Shelby the surveyor was paid in-kind with food, money and a deed for a parcel in the Transylvania Colony before returning to Southern Virginia on the Wild Road.

In 1776 under the new patriot laws Shelby found a commission from the Virginia Committee of Safety appointing him captain of a company of Minutemen. In 1777, Virginia governor Patrick Henry appointed Shelby to a position securing provisions for the army on the frontier. He served a similar role for units in the Continental Army in 1778 and 1779. With his money, Shelby purchased provisions for John Sevier's 1779 expedition against the Chickamauga, a band of Cherokees who were resisting colonial expansion in the Extralegal State of Franklin. 

Shelby was elected to represent Washington County in the Virginia House of Delegates in 1779. Later that year, he was commissioned a major by Governor Thomas Jefferson and charged with escorting a group of commissioners to establish a frontier boundary line between Virginia and North Carolina. Shortly after his arrival in the region, North Carolina Governor Richard Caswell made him magistrate of newly formed Sullivan County and elevated him to the rank of colonel of the Sullivan County Regiment. While he was a colonel, Shelby assisted other colonels establish the State of Franklin before moving to his property in the Kentucke region. Engaging in local politics later creating the Commonwealth of Kentucky with more than a 12 other colonels who made him their first governor. Most of Kentucky's counties today are named after the historic colonial and pioneer colonels that migrated there following Boone and Shelby.

Kentucky Colonel Isaac Shelby

Kentucky Colonel - Isaac Shelby, living portrait (circa 1820)
Colonel Isaac Shelby, First Governor of Kentucky, Former surveyor of the Transylvania Company working under Col. Daniel Boone in August 1775. Selected the First Governor by a unanimous vote of fellow colonels. Portrait painting of Isaac Shelby by artist Matthew Harris Jouett, c. 1816-1820. Source: Gift of Eleanor Robertson Stokes and Rev. Vernon W. Robertson, The Filson Historical Society

Kentucky Colonel Nomination Procedure

In deed, the Kentucky Colonel Award or Title is the highest form of recognition bestowed to individuals by the Commonwealth of Kentucky. 

A Kentucky colonelcy can only be granted by the Governor and the Secretary of State based upon being nominated by another colonel, being recommended by a third party, or being individually recognized by the state's governor for a noteworthy act that commands the governor's attention (or the state). Historically there have been cases where the governor has recognized noteworthy individuals as Kentucky colonels based on formal written suggestions by citizens and other officials of the Commonwealth. 

Nominations for the title of Kentucky Colonel must be made by an independent third party, it is not recommended that family members living at the same address make nominations because they may be rejected. The Office of the Governor is permitted implicitly in law to perform a background check on nominees and nominators.

Recommendations can be made directly on the Governor's Website.

Great Seal of the Commonwealth 2023

Many believe the Kentucky Colonel Seal depicts Col. Daniel Boone and Kentucky Statesman Col. Isaac Shelby. There are 15 official artistic versions of the Seal that are accepted. 

Original Goodwill Ambassador Title of the Commonwealth

Today there are more than 300,000 to perhaps 400,000 Kentucky colonels living in over 70 countries, many organizations have been formed since the turn of the 20th century to promote activities, fraternity and social prosperity relative to Kentucky colonelcy. While colonels today have no official responsibilities mandated, they are legally recognized reciprocally as the state's "ambassadors of good-will" due to their dedication to community service, contributions to the welfare of the state, and for improving the lives of others to make the world a better place for everyone. 

The authoritative title is warranted through letters patent which grants them the Title "Colonel" recognizing them as "Honorable" through a commission as an officer on the governor's staff. Colonels optional duties are de facto and extra officio responsibilities of promoting tourism, economic development, participation in community service, fostering the general prosperity of the Commonwealth and projecting Kentucky's image abroad on behalf of the State and the Governor. Historically these duties extended to writing the laws of the state itself that was founded by colonels.

The Kentucky Colonel has always been those who are most like to succeed in the Commonwealth. Kentucky colonels are selected because they possess admirable characteristics, for recognizing the noteworthy achievements of thousands of great people and the most benevolent honorable deeds that support the best ideas and traditional customs forward in the Bluegrass State.

Kentucky Colonel Andy Beshear

Kentucky Colonel - Andy Beshear (Governor) photograph taken by the Kentucky National Guard, Source Wikipedia
Colonel Andy Beshear became the Governor in 2019, as the Kentucky Colonel Chief Commissioner he amended the traditional process for nominating Kentucky colonels on the state website, making it easier to recommend someone for the award. Previously the privilege of making nominations since 1896 had belonged only to the Kentucky Colonel. Kentucky colonels that use their Honorable Official Titles intend to reestablish some of their rights and privileges in the next administration.

Kentucky Colonel, Honorable Title of Authority

Kentucky Colonel is the highest civil Title of Authority and Honor bestowed by the Commonwealth of Kentucky. The recognition entitles the holder of the commission to enjoy the usufruct rights, privileges and responsibilities as the benefits of the Kentucky Colonelcy as their lifetime office. "Commissions for Kentucky colonels are given on occasion by the Governor and the Secretary of State to individuals in recognition of noteworthy accomplishments, personal achievements, individual deeds and outstanding service in a person's community, state, or nation." 

The Governor of Kentucky bestows the "Honorable" title upon someone with a colonelcy commission through the issuance of letters patent (Kentucky Colonel Certificate). The commission is a legal act of the Office of the Governor and lifetime appointment as a civil officer of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. The official practice of naming civilians as Kentucky colonels began in 1895 with Governor "Colonel" William O'Connell Bradley who himself was known as a Kentucky Colonel since his adolescence, so perhaps the practice of making colonels has much deeper roots?

This is not where the Colonelcy began, long before Governor Bradley came to office Kentucky was full of colonels, in Colonial Virginia being a colonel meant a person was recognized as the "head of the colony"; the same common law colonelcy exists today as it did in 1775, when the colonies turned to states the colonels had done their job and the title remained an honorable one used by the civil state.

The Kentucky Colonel Commission is a Title of Authority and a Title of Honor issued in the form of Letters Patent, it is difficult to reproach a Kentucky Colonel in modern society for their activities taken under this grant of recognition. 

Kentucky Colonel Certificate

Kentucky Colonel Commission issued by Governor Ruby Laffoon was a vacated militia order giving rise to the HOKC Militia in New York
Governor Ruby Laffoon commissioned his colonels as Aide-de-Camp or Colonel-Admirals on the idea of a vacated military order recognizing himself as their Commander-in-Chief. It is unknown if Governor Laffoon was a Kentucky Colonel before taking office in December 1931. His activity with the Kentucky Colonel Commission placed the original ideas of the Kentucky Colonel under harsh criticism by other states causing confusion when he commissioned movie stars. In 1936 all the commissions were cancelled in law by the Attorney General. This was reverted 30 days later and the commission's wording was reduced and the Kentucky Colonel Commission continued.

Future of the Kentucky Colonel

One of the facts we discovered about the Kentucky Colonel when getting a lawsuit dismissed in 2020 is that in the Early Years of Kentucky only the Colonels were allowed to officiate the ballots and polling places, much like the Secretary of State today. Kentucky colonels everywhere want to see the Kentucky Colonelcy awarded under more traditional and transparent conditions, because anything less makes the colonel themselves less significant. 

Currently serving as Secretary of State, the Hon. Michael G. Adams (Republican) was a member of the Facebook Group "Kentucky Colonel Community" during the lawsuit, he was privileged to some of the US District Court proceedings in the HOKC v. KCI where his office was implicated by the plaintiff. Steadfast to the case when it was revealed that the case was being dismissed with prejudice his office removed the Secretary of State's original "Kentucky Colonels" history webpage replacing it with a verified and collaborated edited copy of content offered by his Facebook Group which won its case through the dismissal of the civil complaint. Within 30 days the powers to be, reverted his personally edited content of our history under pressure by the HOKC. When the Facebook Group Members complained about the reversion, the Office of the Secretary of State removed the webpage entirely as not to propagate the Myth of 1813 promoted previously. His office staff referred to the historical accounting about the Real Kentucky Colonel representative to state history as a firestorm for the HOKC, the Kentucky Historical Society and the Governor's Office to resolve in the future, it was not a matter of the Office of the Secretary of State.

Col. Michael Adams, we believe has what it takes to continue to be a great colonel; considering as much as his important itinerary, he knows all so well Kentucky Colonels are not political advocates, but they are strong leaders with great principles for truth and justice to get the job done (at least they always have been). We have great confidence the history of Kentucky colonelcy had only begun to see the light of the day understanding (SOS) Col. Michael Adams agreed with our historical narrative as opposed to the pseudohistory posed by the original Kentucky Colonels website.

Kentucky Colonel Michael Adams

Kentucky Colonel - Col. Michael Adams became Secretary of State in 2019
Colonel Michael G. Adams, Secretary of State authorized the removal of the pseudohistory which had been in place since 1992 about a former Secretary of State, Col. Charles Todd becoming the First Kentucky Colonel in 1813. Adams Staff investigated the history and were unable to find any material or substantial fact in state records relative to the history of Todd being commissioned a Kentucky Colonel by Governor Isaac Shelby. Col. George Chinn and Col. Sanders would have liked this colonel.

Kentucky Colonel (Professional Occupation)

People often ask themselves why they would want to become a Kentucky Colonel, if all the benefits, privileges and responsibilities of common-law colonelcy have been surrendered to past histories and legacies? 

Many people even view it as a joke, but the Title: Kentucky Colonel is not a joke it is quite the contrary; despite its history of 250 years the Office of the Colonelcy is very real, an attorney knowledgeable of this will tell you the Kentucky Colonel Commission is a Title of Authority, it is not just an honorary award despite the references. In 1957, soon to be Governor, Justice Bertram Combs said on the bench that a Kentucky Colonel is an officer of the Commonwealth with greater or equal powers than that of a Notary Public. The Kentucky Colonel may even be likely to have created the First Notary Offices.

While the original rules and traditions may have been subdued as the first colonels (our sovereign leaders) built the governments up around them, the honor and integrity of the engineers of government were incorporated with them in today's civil award (commission), the difference today is that it is more difficult to apply the wisdom of the freemen with the vision they had considering our environment and the existing civil society. Any legal expert most likely knows the actual authority the title gives them, however they will also tell you that there is no way to exercise all the powers except by leading others in your own endeavors.

Kentucky Colonel Coat of Arms

Kentucky Colonel Coat of Arms serves as our Logotype and one of several symbols of the Kentucky Colonel
United We Stand, Divided We Fall - Historic representation of the Kentucky Coat of Arms (c. 1876),  note that the Coat of Arms uses the Motto of the Kentucky Colonel, "United We Stand Divided We Fall". A phrase attributed to Founding Father John Dickinson in his pre-Revolutionary War song "The Liberty Song", first published on July 7, 1768. The song was a favorite of Boone and Shelby. This serves as our website logo.

The Kentucky Colonel taking Action

We have scoured thousands of newspaper articles which are being cataloged and organized as content for our publication online and for our book, which may become an online publication that is serialized.

We have encountered colonels in comics, colonels with bad reputations and colonels that could not be put in jail. There is an amazing true story of a Kentucky Colonel that shot a US judge in self-defense in the courtroom. We found colonels at the World's Fair and hundreds of places across the United States. We even found colonels teaching high school during the Civil War.

Share Your Kentucky Colonel Content

If you are a Kentucky Colonel you can submit content through our Facebook Groups or by sending an email to our webmaster. All content prior to 1927 is part of the public domain, but please indicate the origin, source and date of your content especially if it is more recent. Content provided will be credited with your name as the source or collaborator.

Kentucky Colonel Annie M. Poage

Newspaper clipping of Col. Annie M. Poage the first female to become named a Kentucky Colonel by the Commonwealth.
Colonel Annie M. Poage recognized for he accomplishments in Kentucky as a newspaper editor and for her activism promoting Liberty Bonds following World War I. 

New Articles, True History and Listings

Interested in helping us write new articles? How did you become a colonel? That in itself must be newsworthy, or at least it should be if you are a Real Kentucky Colonel™ that recognizes the honorable title. If you cannot write well, just ask someone to write something for you in the third-person, if it is interesting and newsworthy we will publish it to our news feed starting in February 2023. 

Explore our website, help make improvements, if you are a Kentucky Colonel add your name to our public list, get a page on our website and more. The Kentucky Colonel™ List, Kentucky Colonel™ ID Card and the Kentucky Colonel™ Registry are three big projects introduced to our website for January 01, 2023; the website and its members are now under the executive authority of the independent, non-state Kentucky Colonel™ Reconciliation Council; website users can learn more beginning February 02, 2023 coincident with Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney Pennsylvania where the announcement will be made. 

Looks Like a Kentucky Colonel

Yes suh, the Kentucky Colonel and the Kentucky Colonelcy started long ago before Kentucky was a state.
The classic image of the Kentucky Colonel™ evolved from the latter part of the 19th and through most of the 20th century as a loveable, recognizable and sometimes cantankerous colonel that commanded attention wherever he went.

Colonel Badge, Not Available in Stores

It is unlawful to impersonate a Kentucky Colonel unless you are an actual Kentucky Colonel, this can be easily determined by reading the case files of the HOKC, aka Kentucky Colonels v. Col. David J. Wright, et. al. the lawsuit established clearly that the HOKC was founded based on a fictitious militia order without evidence based on the credibility of government. Real historians never believed them, either did Col. George Chinn who presided over the Kentucky Historical Society, the case was dismissed but did earn several points of merit with the court regarding their own trademark. 

Due to the Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels making threatening legal demands against badge manufacturers it is difficult to have a Kentucky Colonel Badge manufactured by a US badge manufacturer. There is no prohibition or restrictions on a Kentucky Colonel ordering their own badge however, despite this some badge manufacturers are reluctant, but most will still make a badge for colonels, sometimes requesting a photo of a persons commission or requiring that a badge be personalized. 

By law a Kentucky Colonel has the right to identify themselves as a colonel and honorary civilian officer that is an ambassador of goodwill. We recommend that all living and active colonels, identify themselves prominently using their Honorific Titles complimented by an ID Card, nameplate and wallet mounted badge when travelling or at work, however to promote that position we had to develop a handbook which is available only to Kentucky colonels that are actively employed.

Original Kentucky Colonel Badge Replica of 1913, prohibited by the Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels, Executive Director Col. Sherry Crose
The Kentucky Colonel™ Badge was (re)created by Col. David J. Wright who discovered in 2020 many of the lost origins of the the Kentucky Colonel Title used as early as 1776 in Colonial Virginia. It is a replica of the badge used by the Kentucky Colonel Model Initiation Club in 1917, which was made of solid coin silver.