Estimates of the size of Corn Island vary with time as it gradually was eroded and became submerged. A 1780 survey listed its size at 43 acres (170,000 m2). At that point it extended from what is now Louisville's Fourth Street to Fourteenth.
The Louisville Cement Company extracted rock for cement in the 19th century, and the removal of trees from the island contributed to erosion, which combined to sink much of the island by 1895. The island was flooded by the construction of a dam in the 1920s. It now lies permanently underwater.
Corn Island was first surveyed in 1773 by Thomas Bullitt's party and called Dunmore's Island (after John Murray, 4th Earl of Dunmore, Crown Governor of Virginia). Surveying expeditions like this helped to provoke Dunmore's War the following year.
During the American Revolutionary War, the island was settled on May 27, 1778 by George Rogers Clark's militia and 60 civilian settlers, who remained behind when Clark's party departed on June 24. Clark established the farming colony on the island as a communication post to support his famous military campaign in the Illinois Country.
The island was renamed Corn Island by Clark, presumably reflecting the early importance of farming. The agricultural name also might have helped further the ruse that it was intended purely as a farming settlement, and not a military post. The settlers remained long after Clark's campaign ended. They moved to the mainland the following year, establishing Louisville. Louisville traces its foundation in 1778 to the settlement on Corn Island. The island continued to be used for farming and hunting until it was submerged.
According to the Draper Manuscripts which document the earliest pioneer settlers on Corn Island, the first documented, non-Native American children born in Kentucky were Isaac Kimbley, born to Andrew Kimbley (1737-1834) and Sarah "Sallie" Bromley Kimbley (1755-1822). Andrew Kimbley fought alongside General George Rogers Clark and was later granted a land grant in Kentucky by Clark.
According to Jefferson County Clerk, property taxes for land that was Corn Island, is currently paid by the James family of Louisville. The Corn Island "land" has been in their family for generations and they have continued to pay the annual tax bill for it.
The annual Corn Island Storytelling Festival in September takes its name from the subject landmark. There is also a Sea Scout Group named The Corn Island Pirates in Louisville as well as a cultural resources survey company named Corn Island Archaeology, LLC.