The Commonwealth Colonels, formerly Kentucky Colonels International is a volunteer, educational and historical Creative Commons authorship group made up of Kentucky colonels promoting and supporting colonels as goodwill ambassadors for the Commonwealth at home and abroad. Association as a user of our website is open-source that is free to all persons interested in learning about the customs, folklore, history and traditions of Kentucky since the first American colonels pioneered and settled 'Kentucke' as the first organized democratic establishment in North America starting in 1774 and 1775.
Our Focus and Mission
Our focus on recognizing the first Kentucky Colonels, their history, deeds and why "colonels" were so important to Kentucky's history as a Commonwealth. The website is being developed to collaborate with other colonels a definitive resource that is publicly accessible for Kentucky colonels and the academic community including anthropology, geography, history and social science students.
Our mission is to build a website and write a book that explores and factualizes the roots and purposes of Kentucky colonels and colonelcy from 1775-2025.
Louisville, The Kentucky Colonels c. 1925
The Commonwealth Colonels is an objective that began in 1998 online to extend goodwill and project fellowship internationally between the Commonwealth of Kentucky to people of other nations and states around the world. The grand effort is to bestow an official high regard upon the title of Kentucky Colonel as an internationally recognized award and proper title. The focus of Commonwealth Colonels is upon its colonels being legally designated as goodwill ambassadors, nationally and internationally while being officially recognized as representatives of traditional Kentucky values when travelling abroad.
The Commonwealth Colonels began as an idea was adapted, conceived, developed and originated by Col. David Wright starting in 1998 to establish an active international membership association and public registry where members could participate socially and perpetuate their recognition as Kentucky colonels in a dignified and professional manner. What we have become is more of an equal social order rather than as military Kentucky colonel brigade, command, sociopolitical group, or a subjective membership structure.
Our International Commissioners
Our Colonelship has eight officers including Col. Nicholas Wright, Col. Luis Cruz Diaz, Col. Maria Veneke, Col. Jon Meier, Col. James D. Garcia, Col. Fiyinfoluwa Elegbede, Col. Godfrey Brock-Gadd and Col. David Wright; all of them are considered volunteers to carry authorship; most of them have extensive experience in international affairs or other special skills that qualify them as professional goodwill ambassadors.
The title of "Kentucky Colonel" has come to be recognized by heads of state, the United States Congress, at the United Nations, by international non-governmental organizations, and among royalty through these noteworthy individuals. The Colonelship's authors have extensive experience in human and civil rights or are cause advocates for social justice issues including the environment, migration, animal welfare, indigenous peoples, women and children as well as other global issue areas.
International Registry of Kentucky Colonels
Our formation was developing a Registry Project that we announced in 2018 exclusively for Kentucky colonels who wanted to be recognized in the international theater for their achievement and officialize their title internationally to practice as goodwill ambassadors. The registry (a decentralized blockchain project) first became available in November 2019 for those who were interested in receiving an additional credential and having their title recognized in a publicly searchable database, however due to budget setbacks and technical problems the project was halted to be professionally redeveloped under a sister organization, the Goodwill Ambassador Foundation which is established offshore as a non-state entity for the international theater. The project will now formally be restarted independently for many different tiles in 2021 using our original registry idea.
The registry will offer colonels a certificate of registration, a lifetime ID card and additional Internet services with Google using a credential called IDaaS (Identity-as-a-Service). The electronic online directory is searchable so Kentucky colonels can have their titles verified by a third party wherever they present it. The identity service will be compatible with Chrome, iPhone and Android it can be used with any Mac, Windows or Linux based operating system to access special Google services provided by the organization.
Commonwealth Colonels™ is not Kentucky Colonels ®
Commonwealth Colonels and the Kentucky Colonelcy website are not The Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels, Inc. (HOKC) nor are we a military brigade or militia of Kentucky colonels; many of our followers in the social media have also been recognized by the Honorable Order as their supporters or donors at some point and are always welcome to support their independent charitable institution; however our formation is not endorsed, affiliated, associated or sponsored by the Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels.
The 'Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels' is a private non-profit organization and registered charity in Kentucky, it is not a state operated charter or order, its supporters have no voting powers, participation, or personal influence over the organization or its charitable activities. As is stated in their Articles of Incorporation that are on file in Frankfort, Kentucky: "The Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels has no members." The HOKC does however, offer symbolic membership cards to its donors as a token of appreciation or a perk to encourage participation to show solidarity with their charity, they hold several annual events fundraising for their Good Works Fund which provides funds to other Kentucky nonprofits and they sell memorabilia and other products using the trademark "Kentucky Colonels ®" as well. In summary the HOKC operates a trademarked collective giving program that is funded by colonels, organizes events in association with the Kentucky Derby, and commercially markets products labeled under their trademark such as clothing, keychains, cigars, bourbon and other items.
Whereas, the 'Commonwealth Colonels' is focused on providing educational information, literary works, pursuing history, promoting civil rights, international project development, and enhancing the abilities of colonels as diplomats through education. Much like the first colonels who founded Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, Texas, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and West Virginia our objectives remain rooted in the history of these predecessors taking actions that are lawful, honorable and noteworthy to better the society through the creation of new efforts and establishing new horizons much like the pioneers of the past. Colonels today likewise possess specific abilities and rights under the Commonwealth to form companies and develop organizations under the same ideals that drove these pioneers.
New Understanding (Facts are not Just History)
According to our research and new understanding today, the first Kentucky Colonel was actually commissioned by Commonwealth Governor Patrick Henry, Jr. In December 1776, John Bowman from Transylvania was commissioned colonel in-charge of Kentucky, to form a company of 100 men and set up a government in Kentucky County, Colony of Virginia. The term Commonwealth of Kentucky has its roots in the Commonwealth of Virginia and Pennsylvania, their colonists and the ideas of Transylvania Colonels from Boonesborough and Harrodsburg who wrote the "Kentucke Magna Charta." Colonel was highest responsible delegated authority in the Commonwealth Colony of Virginia under Governor Henry and the Territorial Major, Brigadier General (Colonel) George Rogers Clark in 1776. The colonels under the new governor and major, divided Kentucky County into three counties by 1780, then four, then five, seven, then nine counties by 1788.
General Clark and Gov. Patrick Henry had the authority to issue colonelcies across the entire modern states of West Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan and portions of and Western Pennsylvania were all created from the territory encompassed, or claimed by, the Colony of Virginia (Commonwealth of Virginia) at the time of further American independence in July 1776. Why Commonwealth Colonels?
Commonwealth is a traditional English term for a political community founded for the common good. Historically it has sometimes been synonymous with "republic". The noun "commonwealth", meaning "public welfare general good or advantage", dates from the 15th century. The term literally meant "common well-being". In the 17th century, the definition of "commonwealth" expanded from its original sense of "common good" or "commonweal" to mean "a state in which the supreme power is vested in the people; a republic or democratic state". The term commonwealth also has affinity to the ideal of "common law".
By 1792 when Colonel Isaac Shelby became the First Governor there were as many as 100-250, perhaps more Kentucky District Colonels in the newly formed Commonwealth of Kentucky. Isaac Shelby himself was a North Carolina Colonel from Sullivan County, which later became part of the State of Franklin and then Tennessee. Col. Shelby moved to Kentucky in 1783, to land that he received as a bounty surveying for the Transylvania Colony in 1775. By this time most large landholders that immigrated to the Kentucky District which received a warrant deed as an American Revolutionary War Veteran were also called colonels honorarily based on land holdings and age. Many of these colonels and their colonists (settlers) became the legislators, sheriffs, and justices of the peace after Kentucky became a state. Colonels were also responsible for polling votes from the colonists in these early years. Prior to the establishment of the State Legislature and the formation of the State the "colonels" were the highest acting officials.
Colonels continued under common law to issue commissions over landholdings, issue deeds now under the new government and all things that could be managed as the highest county officials until the Second Constitution in 1799 which did not provide powers to designate colonels or acknowledge their powers, nor did it prohibit the continuing emergence of new colonels as a customary title, but it did for justice of the peace, judges and other positions. By this time 9 counties became 30, subdivided by mostly colonels, there were hundreds of colonels. Daniel Boone, Isaac Shelby, John Bowman and of course, often called "General" or "Colonel George Rogers Clark" were all also land surveyors and governmental authorities; well-respected in their time. Col. Leonard Helm, Col. Benjamin Logan and Col. Daniel Boone were the among the highest authorities in Kentucke. The history does not end here, this is just a brief overview.
Colonels continued greatly in their prominence, until 1802 under an Act of Congress the Military Peace Establishment Act authorized the duties of the rank of "colonel" in the U.S. Army using the language "one colonel, one lieutenant-colonel, four majors, one adjutant, and twenty companies..." In Kentucky and Tennessee the traditions adopted of conferring colonelcy as a rite of passage, customarily, among one another under common law was dying out. As we understand, more than ever now, there are many more high and low points for Kentucky's Honorary Colonelcy in 1813, 1815, 1861, 1865, 1890, 1892, 1895, 1898, 1906, 1920, 1930, 1931, 1932, 1934, 1936, 1939, 1941, 1947, 1957, 1992, 2007. 2016, 2020 and other dates. Together have resulted in the ideals of the Kentucky Colonel becoming more and more commonplace as an honorary commission. Since 2007 more than 150,000 commissions have been issued in less that 15 years, a number that can sharply rise in 2020, considering basically anyone can now nominate a colonel which started on February 19, 2020.