McCreary County is a county located in the U.S. state of Kentucky. As of the 2010 census, the population was 18,306. Its county seat is Whitley City. The county is named for James B. McCreary, a Confederate war hero and Governor of Kentucky from 1875 to 1879, and 1911 to 1915. During his second term as Governor of Kentucky, McCreary County was named in his honor.
McCreary County is the only Kentucky county to not have a single incorporated city. Because of this, county government is the sole local government agency for the entire county. Attractions in McCreary County include the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, Cumberland Falls State Park, and the Big South Fork Scenic Railway, which tours several former coal camps.
The majority of the county is owned by the federal government. 43% is owned and managed by the Daniel Boone National Forest, and 18% owned and managed by the National Park Service as the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area.
- 1 History
- 2 Government and infrastructure
- 3 Geography
- 3.1 Geology
- 3.2 Adjacent counties
- 3.3 National protected areas
- 4 Demographics
- 5 Economy
- 6 Communities
- 7 Attractions
- 8 Notable residents
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 External links
McCreary County was formed on March 12, 1912, the 120th and final county in order of formation. The present county boundaries contain 427.7 square miles (1,107.7 km2) of land area. The majority of the county was carved out of Wayne and Whitley Counties, with a large center strip following the rail line and roadway from Pulaski County, and a northeastern portion taken from Laurel County. The early history of the area is that of those counties, and is related in the historic perspectives for them. The map to the left shows the network of roadways that had been established by the 1860s. A dotted blue line and settlement names have been added for reference. During the Civil War, the region was the scenario of heavy fighting between Union and Confederate forces fighting for control of Fort Donelsen, and as part of the Union effort to secure the Cumberland. The fall of Fort Donelsen culminated in the eventual capture of Nashville.
Historic Map of McCreary County Area
The most significant early feature of the future county was the Jacksboro Road. Running from Jacksboro, Tennessee, to Point Isabel and Somerset, this pioneer road was simply an enlargement of the Tellico Trail, an Indian route that had been used for thousands of years. Several other trails intersected this road, and led to the growth settlement villages such as Pine Knot, Dripping Springs/Coolidge, and Flat Rock. Other settlement occurred in far flung, sequestered hollows. The economy of the times was based upon small-scale subsistence agriculture, timber products such as railroad ties and barrel staves, and small coal mines.
Beginning in the early 19th century, Cumberland Falls gained attention as an early tourism destination. Later development increased visitation, and the Brunsen Inn was a popular destination for seasonal visitors. Until a road was built from Whitley County in 1931, the primary access to the Falls was through McCreary. With a generous contribution from one of the DuPont family heirs, the Falls joined the state park system in 1930.
The completion of the Cincinnati Southern Railway line through the county in 1880 changed its economic characteristics forever. Access to distant markets for timber and coal caused the emergence of many small mining and logging companies. Nothing however, was to have the impact of the Justus S. Stearns enterprises. From 1903 throughout most of the 20th century, the territory of McCreary County was dominated and controlled by Stearns company interests.
Attempting to avoid financial losses during the Great Depression of the 1930s, the Stearns cluster of companies sold vast quantities of land to the U.S. Government, becoming part of what was to become the Cumberland National Forest in 1937. This forest reserve was subsequently renamed Daniel Boone National Forest. In the 1970s, legislative action acquired additional lands in southern McCreary and Tennessee, creating the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area in the mid-1970s.
Government and infrastructure
- Judge Executive Hon. Douglas E "Doug" Stephens (R)
- Deputy Judge Executive Hon. Randy L Jones (R)
- County Magistrates:
- Magistrate Dist. 1 Stanley Cox (R)
- Magistrate Dist. 2 Roger Phillips (R)
- Magistrate Dist. 3 Jason Mann (R)
- Magistrate Dist. 4 Frankie Ball (D)
- County Clerk Eric Haynes (R)
- Sheriff Randy Waters (D)
- Jailer Tony Ball (D)
- Coroner Timothy L. Corder (R)
- Tourism Director Tara Chaney
- Economic Development Director Susan Stephens
The Federal Bureau of Prisons U.S. Penitentiary, McCreary is in the county, near Pine Knot.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 431 square miles (1,120 km2), of which 427 square miles (1,110 km2) is land and 4.1 square miles (11 km2) (1.0%) is water.
Natural Arch, a prominent feature of Daniel Boone National Forest, is located in McCreary County
The western boundary of McCreary County represents the division between two geological plateau systems, the Pennyroyal and the Cumberland, which are located in the Mississippian Plateau and the Eastern Coal Field respectively. Running diagonally along the Wayne-McCreary County line and through southern Pulaski County is the Pottsville Escarpment. This rugged strip of land is the dividing feature separating the geologically younger Eastern Kentucky Coal Field region from the older, western geology of the state. It is a sandstone belt of cliffs and steep sided, narrow crested valleys. It is located in the Daniel Boone National Forest.
Among the more spectacular features are the sheer cliffs themselves, and numerous gorges, waterfalls, rock shelters, and natural stone arches. Two of the best known sections of the escarpment in Kentucky are the Red River Gorge Geological Area and the Natural Bridge State Park in the north-central portion of the Daniel Boone National Forest.
McCreary and the southern reaches of Pulaski County represent the beginnings of the Cumberland Plateau and the Eastern Kentucky Coal Field region. Most of the geological underpinning of this region is capped with thick sandstone, and formidable coal seams are common in this formation. The terrain is sharply dissected by valleys and stream systems, and limited lands suitable for large-scale conventional agriculture exist. Because of this, the economies of the area have historically been centered upon extractive industries such as timber and mining.
- Pulaski County (north)
- Laurel County (northeast)
- Whitley County (east)
- Campbell County, Tennessee (southeast)
- Scott County, Tennessee (south)
- Wayne County (west)
National protected areas
- Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area (part)
- Daniel Boone National Forest (part)
|U.S. Decennial Census