For many years the sparsely settled area did not have a name. The North Carolinians, who settled there around 1800, began to call their community Point Isabel. An old and unsubstantiated legend relates that a young woman by the name of Isabel threw herself to her death from one of the high bluffs because of an unrequited love affair.
In 1863 the Union Army under the command of General Ambrose E. Burnside established a camp and army depot at Point Isabel and fortified the site along with a major lookout point called Bunker Hill to control a portion of the Cumberland River. With lookouts posted on all the high points, Burnside’s men could watch over a large part of the surrounding countryside. The camp soon became known as Camp Burnside. Older residents still referred to their community as the Point and some began gradually calling it Point Burnside.
General Burnside’s military reputation during the Civil War had suffered extensive criticism. He had led the Union Army to defeat at the Battle of Fredericksburg, Virginia in 1862 against Confederate forces led by General Robert E. Lee. Burnside somewhat redeemed himself militarily in Kentucky when he accepted the surrender of Confederate forces at Cumberland Gap, thus freeing eastern Kentucky and Tennessee from a strong Confederate presence. After the end of the Civil War the Burnside area remained isolated. Bad roads and sparse settlements caused travelers to avoid parts of Pulaski County. Transportation by stagecoach began in 1850 and lasted through 1878. The roads remained poor and travel by coach could be a grueling experience. One traveler noted, “A man can’t drive from Stanford (Lincoln County, Kentucky) to Somerset and still be a Christian. The mud is so deep and the road is so long, that a Christian would lose all patience with himself and his horses before he got to Waynesboro (Lincoln County). After that, Job himself would get out of heart.” In 1878 the first train came through Pulaski County bringing with it a modern means of transportation.