Burley Tobacco First Discovered in Bracken County
The type of tobacco originally grown in Kentucky was not what is now known as Burley, but a darker, air-cured type of tobacco known as Red Burley.
Accounts say that white tobacco, or burley, was first discovered on the farm of Fred Kautz in Brown County, Ohio. Two of Kautz's tenants, George Webb and Joseph Fore, ran out of seed, and got additional from the farm of George Barkley in Bracken County. One L. J. Bradford, of Augusta, reported in an 1873 Frankfort newspaper that he gave the seed to Barkley.
A February 24, 1883 Bracken Bulletin quotes something called Hunt's Merchants' Magazine that says it's native to Mason County.
As the seed spread, and won prizes at fairs, it was learned that the new variety was also less prone to rotting and mildew. Additionally, the red burley had to be picked leaf-by-leaf as the leaf ripened, unlike the new white burley where the entire plant could be cut at once.
Further information on the history of tobacco can be found in Tobacco Culture: Farming Kentucky's Burley Belt, by John Van Willigen and Susan C. Eastwood