The first documented European visitors to the Ohio River Valley were French trappers and priests in the early and mid 1700s. These trail blazers were so impressed with the river's heavily wooded and hilled shores, and with the valley's abundance of fish and wildlife, the priests took to calling the Ohio la Belle Riviere , or, the Beautiful River, in their reports and journals.
The establishment of Newport can be traced to pioneers traveling down the Ohio River by flatboat to seek new lives in an untamed wilderness. Upon reaching the Ohio River's confluence with the Licking River, which flows north out of Northern Kentucky, many stopped to settle and take advantage of the area's large, flat flood plain. This was the beginning of what would become the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky metropolitan region.
General James Taylor pioneered Newport in the 1790s on 1,500 acres inherited from his father, who had been awarded land patent grants for serving in George Washington's provincial regiment, the Virginia Blues, in the French and Indian War. He pioneered Newport with his sophisticated and wealthy new wife Keturah Moss Leitch. Well-connected with Washington politics (Taylor was a cousin to President Zachary Taylor and both were close friends of President and Mrs. James Madison), the Taylors brought colonial culture to an area shared by the Shawnee, Wyanodotte and Delaware tribes of Native Americans and rugged, free-spirited adventurers like Daniel Boone and Jacob Fowler.
Named after Christopher Newport, commander of the first English ships to settle Jamestown, Va., in 1603, Newport was founded in 1795, developing quickly as military outpost. Newport Barracks supplied soldiers in the War of 1812 and the Civil War. In 1893, military operations were moved from Newport to a hilltop a few miles away in Fort Thomas.