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Gothic Villa

Photo: Gothic Villa, ca. 1860, 525 Maple Ave., Danville, KY, 202 W. 13th Street. Photographed by Joel Bradshaw, 2012,, accessed September, 2012.

Kentucky's [1] name comes from the Iroquois Indian word "Ken-tah-ten," or "land of tomorrow." Daniel Boone and other frontiersmen settled in Kentucky in 1769. Admitted into the Union in 1792, Kentucky is the 15th state and the first state west of the Appalachian Mountains. It is known as the "Bluegrass State" because of the blue blossoms of the lush grass around Lexington. Kentucky is one of the border states that lie between the North and the South. Rich tobacco fields and champion race horses have long been symbols of Kentucky. Today, Kentucky is associated with coal mines, horse farms, and racing. Each May, huge crowds in Louisville thrill to the excitement of the Kentucky Derby horse race, America's most prestigious horse race. Visitors to Kentucky may choose from many scenic attractions, recreational facilities and historic sites.

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Kentucky Counties & County Seats

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Creation of Counties [2]

At the time of the 1850 Constitution, Kentucky had 100 counties. In the 40 years before the constitutional convention of 1890 an additional 19 counties were created, making this state the second most constitutionally subdivided state in the United States per square mile. There were several reasons for this growth in the number of counties. Some new counties were created for the legitimate purpose of making the county seat more accessible in the days of poor roads and transportation by horse. In other cases, however, counties were created for political and economic reasons. If a particular part of a county was at odds with the politics and policies of those controlling the courthouse, they might simply form a new county.

The delegates to the 1890 constitutional convention felt that too many counties existed already and sought to prevent the further subdivision of the state by placing constitutional restrictions on the formation of new counties. Under the 1891 Constitution, the General Assembly may not form a new county with an area of less than 400 square miles or a population of less than 12,000. In forming a new county, the General Assembly is not allowed to reduce any existing county to an area of less than 400 square miles or a population of less than 12,000. The boundary line of a newly formed county must not pass within 10 miles of the county seat of an existing county. These safeguards against the growth in the number of counties have been successful. Only one county has been established under the Constitution of 1891: McCreary County, which was formed in 1912.

Provisions protecting existing county boundaries and county seats were also made a part of the current constitution. No territory may be taken from an existing county, except territory to be used to form a new county, unless a majority of the voters of the affected county approve. The petition of a majority of the voters of territory to be stricken from a county is required in order for the county judge/executive to call an election on the question. Any portion of a county stricken from the county remains liable for its share of the debt of the county from which it is taken. No existing county seat may be moved to another city without the approval of two-thirds of the voters of that county. Finally, the General Assembly probably has the power to abolish any existing county at any time.

The General Assembly's power to abolish counties has served as a control over county government. Just days before the constitutional convention met in 1890, the Louisville Courier-Journal reported that the "war" was on again in "rowdy Rowan" County and described a running gunfight in the streets of Morehead. These were days of feuding and general lawlessness throughout much of the state, a condition of which the delegates were painfully aware. The present constitution expressly states that the General Assembly has the power to abolish counties. This expression was intended to give the General Assembly an axe to hang above the heads of the counties—they must enforce the law or be abolished. This provision has never been invoked by the General Assembly.

  1. U.S. Department of State,, accessed December, 2007
  2. Kentucky Legislative Research Commission, County Government in Kentucky, 2003,, accessed June, 2015.

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