Panel 1Forerunner of Kentucky Derby. Site of one of the earliest circular racetracks. Crowd gathered within the half-mile track, able to see entire race. Built about 1780 by Col. Wm. Whitley, owner of estate. A fervent patriot, he built track to contrast with the British ones, using clay instead of turf and running races counter-clockwise instead of clockwise. A practice still used by oval tracks in USA. Racing here ended with the Civil War.
He built his house so that racetrack was visible from it. Meetings held in fall, bringing elite of region here. After races, which started at dawn, lavish breakfast was served.
This track greatly enhanced the prestige of KY as the fatherland of fine horses. In pre-Civil War days, it was the most popular center for horse racing and fox hunting.
Colonel Will Whitley, famous pioneer, Indian fighter, hero and poet with George Rogers Clark came to KY in 1775. He selected a settlement located on Cedar Creek, a branch of Dick's River (now Dix River) and later returned to Virginia for his family.
Whitley built the first brick house west of the Alleganies. The brick were lad in Flemish Bond design on a place known as Sportsman Hill.
Having an aversion to anything English, he used clay instead of turf for the surface of the oval or circular racetrack
which he laid out in 1788. He raced the horses in a counter-clockwise direction. To this day all American sports using oval tracks race counter-clockwise.
Whitley was killed at the age of 64 in the War of 1812 at the Battle of the Thames. It is thought Whitley killed Tecumseh. The question of Tecumseh's death may remain a mystery, but the contribution of William Whitley to pioneer KY .is a fact.
The racetrack was so popular with the pioneers of the area that on Oct. 21, 1788 the Lincoln Co. Court ordered that the road from Whitley's race path to the Lincoln Co. Court House be built.