Owensboro is a Class-2 city in Daviess County, Kentucky, in the United States. It is the seat of its county and the 4th-largest city by population in the state. It is located on U.S. Route 60 about southwest of Louisville, and is the principal city of the Owensboro metropolitan area. The city's population was estimated at 58,083 in 2012, with a metropolitan population of 116,030.
There is evidence of American Indian settlement in the area dating back 12,000 years. Following a series of failed uprisings with British support, however, the last Shawnee were forced to vacate the area before the end of the eighteenth century.
The first European descendant to settle in Owensboro was frontiersman William Smeathers or Smothers in 1797, for whom the riverfront park is named. The settlement was originally known as Yellow Banks from the color of the land beside the Ohio River. The Lewis and Clark Expedition wintered at what is today's Owensboro prior to departing on their famous travels. In 1817, Yellow Banks was formally established under the name Owensborough, named after Col. Abraham Owen. In 1893, the spelling of the name was shortened to its current Owensboro.
In August 1865, Owensboro was subject to a raid by a band of Confederate guerrillas from Tennessee led by Captain Jack Bennett, an officer in Stovepipe Johnson's Partisan Rangers. Bennett's men rode into Owensboro, tried and failed to rob a local bank, took 13 Union soldiers of the 108th Colored Infantry prisoner, executed them, burned the bodies on a supply boat and escaped back to Tennessee having covered a total of on horseback inside six days. Another major battle occurred south of Owensboro and is today signified by a monument marking the battle located beside US Hwy 431.
There have been several distillers, mainly of bourbon whiskey, in and around the city of Owensboro. The major distillery still in operation is the Glenmore Distillery Company.
On August 14, 1936, downtown Owensboro was the site of the last public hanging in the United States. Rainey Bethea was executed for the rape and murder of 70-year-old Lischa Edwards. The execution was presided over by a woman sheriff, Florence Shoemaker Thompson, who gained national media attention for her role in the process.
The end of the Second World War brought civil engineering projects, which helped turn Owensboro from a sleepy industrial town into a modern, expanding community by the turn of the 1960s. Many of the projects were set in motion by Johnson, Depp & Quisenberry, a firm of consulting engineers then engaged in a runway redesign at the County Airport; the 'Depp' in question was a member of an old and prodigious Kentucky family which includes the town's most famous son, actor Johnny Depp.