Breckinridge County, Kentucky

Breckinridge County, Kentucky

Breckinridge County, Kentucky courthouse in Hardinsburg
Map of Kentucky highlighting Breckinridge County
Location in the U.S. state of Kentucky
Map of the United States highlighting Kentucky
Kentucky's location in the U.S.
Founded 1799
Named for John Breckinridge
Seat Hardinsburg
Largest city Hardinsburg
  Total 586 sq mi (1,518 km2)
  Land 567 sq mi (1,469 km2)
  Water 18 sq mi (47 km2), 3.2%
  (2010) 20,059
  Density 35/sq mi (14/km²)
Congressional district 2nd
Time zone Central: UTC-6/-5

Breckinridge County is a county located in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. As of the 2010 census, the population was 20,059.[1] Its county seat is Hardinsburg, Kentucky.[2] The county was formed in 1799 and was named for John Breckinridge (1760–1806), an Kentucky Attorney General, state legislator, United States Senator, and United States Attorney General.[3][4] Breckinridge County is a wet county following a local option election on January 29, 2013 but was a prohibition or dry county for the prior 105 years.


In August 1779, Sinclair Hardin (first cousin of Captain William Hardin, the founder of Hardin's Fort), was killed by Shawnee Indians while taking at drink at Big Springs. He was the first white settler in Breckinridge County to be killed by Native Americans.[5][6] The Indian threat remained for the settlers for some years after that. However, the only sizable expedition against the Native Americans that Breckenridge County settlers took part in culminated in the Battle of Saline Creek in August 1786.[5][6] Fought in Illinois, the battle lasted only about four minutes, but was fiercely fought in hand-to-hand combat. Between 18 and 30 Shawnee warriors were killed, with six more wounded. The remainder of the Shawnee fled. Captain William Hardin had commanded the white volunteers, many of whom also were killed or wounded. Hardin's victorious militia took home 16 Shawnee scalps, nine captured horses, 17 muskets, and "a mighty nice sword".[6]

Breckinridge County was established in 1799 from land formerly in Hardin County. It was the 38th Kentucky county in order of formation.[7]

The Judge-Executive of Breckinridge County from 1801 to 1805 was William Comstock. Jo Allen was the county clerk, and Ben Huff was the sheriff.[8]

When Abraham Lincoln's father, Thomas Lincoln, moved from the Knob Creek Farm, his last Kentucky home, shortly after November 11, 1816, he traveled through Breckinridge County, working odd jobs for several weeks.[9] Thomas Lincoln took his wife, son, and daughter from the Knob Creek Farm (Abraham Lincoln's birthplace; in present-day Hodgenville) down the trail of the old Springfield Pike to Elizabethtown.[10] After a short visit with the Brumfield family, the Lincolns traveled about twelve miles west, passing the First Regular Baptist Church of Mill Creek. The Lincolns followed the old pioneer trail (established in 1802) through Vine Grove (Viney Grove), and after crossing Otter Creek, they traveled through what is now the community of Flaherty (Breckinridge County) to the town of Big Spring.[9] Their journey from Flaherty passed the Woolfork brick house at Jackey's Grove, then on to Big Spring. Big Spring is located where the boundaries of Hardin, Meade (established 1823), and Breckinridge counties meet. The Lincolns next passed Hopkins Otey Wale's farm in the area between Harned and Garfield in Breckinridge County, which until the Civil War, was known as the Prince of Wales.[9] Mr. Wales owned about 2,000 acres of land on both sides of U.S. Route 60, and was centered about where "Dead Man's Curve" is now. Thomas Lincoln, at the time, was almost destitute. They spent the night at the inn, for which Mr. Lincoln paid his way by splitting wood. At that time, little Abe was only 7 or 8 years old. There was not room for him at the supper table, so he was sent to the kitchen to eat with the slaves, but not so, since the slaves would not sit with that "poor white trash", so Abe was obliged to sit in a corner alone.[9]

The Lincolns followed the trace of the old pioneer Salt Lick Trail through Vine Grove, Flaherty, and Big Spring to U.S. Route 60 near Harned's Station. The Lincolns followed the most direct route by way of the Lost Run Road to Harned, and from Harned, the Lincoln family pursued a straight course over what is now Federal Highway 60 to the town of Hardinsburg. Colonel David R. Murray was the first person in Breckinridge County who came in contact with Thomas Lincoln's family as they migrated westward in their ox-cart. Colonel Murray talked to the Lincolns in person, and being well informed concerning the surrounding country, he directed them to a vacant log cabin, where they might secure rest and shelter.[10] Murray's old colored female servant, Minerva, after seeing the condition of the children, went back into the house, and came back immediately with a plate heaped with slices of homemade bread covered with butter, a pitcher of milk, and some cups. She seated the children on the steps of Murray's house and fed the Lincoln children.[10]

Thomas Lincoln and his family spent two or three weeks in Hardinsburg and occupied a small cabin near the southern edge of town, what is now the Kentucky FFA Leadership Training Camp in Hardinsburg.[11] Local residents gave them food and a cow for milk.[12] From Hardinsburg, the Lincoln family took the Yellow Banks Road to Cloversport. In Cloversport (then Joesville, named after Joe Huston), Thomas Lincoln, Nancy, Sarah, and, 7 or 8-year-old Abraham Lincoln spent one night in the home of Mrs. Kittie Monroe's father in Cloverport above Clover Creek.[10] Mrs. Kittie Monroe was the wife of James Monroe.

The Lincolns left Kentucky by crossing the Ohio River at Cloverport[13] on a log ferry operated by Jacob Weatherholt,[14] from above the mouth of Clover Creek,[10] through Thompson's Ferry,[9] which operated on the Ohio River in the vicinity of the mouth of Anderson Creek, to Tobinsport, Indiana. The next day, the Lincoln family made their way down to Rock Island (Indiana), and camped at "Lafayette Springs", named so because that is where the Mechanic, the steamboat Marquis de Lafayette was on, wrecked on May 8–9, 1825. The next day (December 1816), the Lincoln family stopped at Troy, and then moved on toward their new home to take up a Federal Land Claim near Little Pigeon Creek (within the Little Pigeon Creek Community) in what was then Perry County and is now Spencer County, Indiana.[9][10]

During the American Civil War, Confederate cavalry burned the local courthouse, which was being used by Union troops as a barracks, but most of the records were saved. On March 12, 1865, Jerome Clarke, a notorious Confederate guerrilla, reputed by some to have been Sue Munday, was captured near the Breckinridge–Meade County line[15] and was hanged three days later in Louisville.[16] Afterward, his trial drew heavy criticism.

During the nineteenth century, the Victoria Coal Mines, named in honor of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom, were the first to produce coal oil, and Cloverport exported coal oil to Great Britain, where it was used to light Buckingham Palace.

United States Supreme Court Justice Wiley Blount Rutledge, Jr., who served on the High Court from 1943 to 1949, was born at Tar Springs in 1894, while his father was pastor of Cloverport Baptist Church.

On June 6, 1932, at Hardinsburg, Sam Jennings became the second-last person to be publicly executed in the United States.

In the 1950s Rough River Dam State Resort Park was developed at the southern border of the county.

A third courthouse fire nearly destroyed county records in 1958.

Breckinridge County High School prides itself as the champion of the 1965 and 1995 Kentucky High School Athletic Association's Boys' Basketball tournaments.

The Breckinridge County Archives, formed in 1984, was the first state-funded archival repository in the history of the United States and is known across the nation as an excellent resource for genealogical and historical research.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 586 square miles (1,520 km2), of which 567 square miles (1,470 km2) is land and 18 square miles (47 km2) (3.2%) is water.[17]

Adjacent counties


Historical population
Census Pop.
Est. 201520,018[18]−0.2%
U.S. Decennial Census[19]
1790-1960[20] 1900-1990[21]
1990-2000[22] 2010-2013[1]

As of the census[23] of 2000, there were 18,648 people, 7,324 households, and 5,309 families residing in the county. The population density was 33 per square mile (13/km2). There were 9,890 housing units at an average density of 17 per square mile (6.6/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 95.84% White, 2.86% Black or African American, 0.23% Native American, 0.08% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.09% from other races, and 0.90% from two or more races. 0.72% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 7,324 households out of which 31.00% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 59.60% were married couples living together, 8.90% had a female householder with no husband present, and 27.50% were non-families. 24.60% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.60% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.51 and the average family size was 2.97.

In the county the population was spread out with 24.90% under the age of 18, 8.20% from 18 to 24, 26.70% from 25 to 44, 26.00% from 45 to 64, and 14.20% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 98.60 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 96.30 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $30,554, and the median income for a family was $36,575. Males had a median income of $31,004 versus $19,371 for females. The per capita income for the county was $15,402. About 11.80% of families and 15.80% of the population were below the poverty line, including 16.60% of those under age 18 and 19.00% of those age 65 or over.


Breckinridge County has three school systems:

Saint Romuald Interparochial School


Breckinridge County Public Library is located at 112 South Main Street in Hardinsburg, Kentucky.


Notable natives

See also

Coordinates: 37°46′N 86°26′W / 37.77°N 86.43°W / 37.77; -86.43


  1. 1 2 "State & County QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved March 5, 2014.
  2. "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Archived from the original on 2011-06-15. Retrieved 2011-06-07.
  3. The Register of the Kentucky State Historical Society, Volume 1. Kentucky State Historical Society. 1903. p. 34.
  4. "Brekinridge County". The Kentucky Encyclopedia. 2000. Retrieved August 20, 2014.
  5. 1 2 Jolly, Henry C. 1902, April 25. "Interesting History of Indian Bill Hardin". The Breckinridge Democrat.
  6. 1 2 3 Perrin, W.H. 1885. A History of the State of Kentucky. pg. 1039–1042; 1081, 1082. Retrieved from and
  7. Collins, Lewis (1882). Collins' Historical Sketches of Kentucky: History of Kentucky, Volume 2. Collins & Company. p. 26.
  8. Breckinridge Bicentennial Committee Program. Accessed from Breckinridge Historical Archives.
  9. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Gregory, Edward. (1938). "At the End of the Trail: The Story of the Journey of Thomas Lincoln and His Family Through Hardin and Breckinridge Counties, Kentucky, to Indiana in 1816." Retrieved on November 27, 2014 from
  10. 1 2 3 4 5 6 McMurtry, R. Gerald. (1937, December). The Lincoln Migration from Kentucky to Indiana. Indiana Magazine of History, Volume 33, Issue 4, pg. 385-421. Retrieved from
  11. Kentucky Historical Marker No. 1003.
  12. Kentucky Historical Marker No. 1003, Thompson, William, History and Legend of Breckinridge County, Kentucky.
  13. Kentucky Historical Marker No. 73.
  14. Affidavits in support of Kentucky Historical Marker No. 1003, on file with the Kentucky Historical Society
  15. Kentucky Historical Marker No. 536.
  16. Kentucky Historical Marker No. 540.
  17. "2010 Census Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. August 22, 2012. Retrieved August 12, 2014.
  18. "County Totals Dataset: Population, Population Change and Estimated Components of Population Change: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2015". Retrieved July 2, 2016.
  19. "U.S. Decennial Census". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on May 11, 2015. Retrieved August 12, 2014.
  20. "Historical Census Browser". University of Virginia Library. Retrieved August 12, 2014.
  21. "Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved August 12, 2014.
  22. "Census 2000 PHC-T-4. Ranking Tables for Counties: 1990 and 2000" (PDF). United States Census Bureau. Retrieved August 12, 2014.
  23. "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on 2013-09-11. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
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