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The Jackson Purchase is a region in the state of Kentucky bounded by the Mississippi River to the west, the Ohio River to the north, and Tennessee River to the east.[1] Although technically part of Kentucky at its statehood in 1792, the land did not come under definitive U.S. control until 1818, when Andrew Jackson and Isaac Shelby purchased it from the Chickasaw Indians. Kentuckians generally call this region the Purchase.

Jackson's purchase also included all of Tennessee west of the Tennessee River. In modern usage the term Jackson Purchase refers only to the Kentucky portion of the acquisition. The Tennessee region directly to the south is typically called West Tennessee.



The Purchase comprises eight counties with a combined land area of 6,202.496 km² (2,394.797 sq mi), or about 6.03 percent of the state's land area. Its 2000 census population was 193,495 inhabitants, or about 4.787 percent of the state's population. The largest city and main economic center, Paducah, has fewer than 30,000 residents. Only two other towns in the region, Murray and Mayfield, have more than 10,000 residents each. The region's main educational institution is Murray State University.


Counties in the Purchase

Cities, towns, and census-designated places

The Purchase is primarily alluvial and is geologically part of the Mississippi Delta. It is in a zone of high earthquake risk. It lies near the New Madrid Seismic Zone, which in 1811 and 1812 experienced three of the largest quakes ever recorded. In 1895 another major earthquake was recorded there.


Though chiefly an agricultural economy, tourism is an important industry in the Purchase, focused chiefly on water-related activities at the TVA-created Kentucky Lake. Together with the portion of the Tennessee River north of Kentucky Dam, it forms the eastern border of the Purchase.


Historically with an agricultural economy tied to cotton plantations and the use of enslaved labor before the Civil War, the Purchase was the most staunchly Democratic region in Kentucky. For well over a century, it provided such overwhelming margins for Democratic candidates that Kentucky Democrats routinely called it the "Gibraltar of Democracy". The most widely circulated newspaper and media outlet in the Purchase, The Paducah Sun, was once named the Paducah Sun-Democrat (see WPSD-TV).

During the Civil War, the Purchase was the area of strongest support for the Confederate cause. On May 29, 1861, a group of Southern sympathizers from Kentucky and Tennessee met at the Graves County Courthouse in Mayfield to discuss the possibility of aligning the Purchase with West Tennessee. Most records of the event were lost, possibly in an 1864 fire that destroyed the courthouse. In 1907, Fulton County judge Herbert Carr declared in a speech that the Mayfield Convention adopted a resolution for secession, and a historical marker in front of the courthouse also proclaims this as fact. However, the surviving records of the meeting, authored by a Union sympathizer, make no mention of this resolution, and historian Berry Craig opines that the convention believed the whole of Kentucky would eventually secede and make a resolution for the Purchase to break away unnecessary. Records do show that the convention adopted resolutions condemning President Lincoln for "waging a bloody and cruel war" against the South, urging Governor Beriah Magoffin to resist Union forces and praising him for refusing to answer Lincoln's call for soldiers, and condemning the provision of "Lincoln guns" to Union sympathizers in Kentucky. The convention also nominated Henry Burnett to represent Kentucky's First District in Congress. The Mayfield Convention was a precursor to the later Russellville Convention, which formed the provisional Confederate government of Kentucky.[2]

Kentucky congressional districts

In recent elections, the Purchase has voted for Republicans in national elections while giving higher percentages to Democrats in state elections. This trend is similar to realignment among white conservatives in other parts of the South. As of 2004, however, the majority of the region's delegation in the Kentucky General Assembly have been elected from the Republican Party. For the first time in history, the region's two state senators are both Republicans.

The Purchase is within Kentucky's 1st congressional district. As of March 15, 2007, 74% of all Purchase voters are registered Democrats and 22% of Purchase voters are registered Republicans. In keeping with the South generally, Purchase Democrats are more conservative than many in the national party. (see also Blue Dog Democrats).


  1. ^ "Geographical Configuration". Encyclopedia of Kentucky. New York, New York: Somerset Publishers. 1987. ISBN 0403099811.  
  2. ^ Craig, Berry F. (Autumn 2001). "The Jackson Purchase Considers Secession: The 1861 Mayfield Convention". The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society 99 (4): pp. 339–361.  

See also

Coordinates: 36°52′N 88°46′W / 36.86°N 88.76°W / 36.86; -88.76


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