KYGenWeb Project

Morgan County, Kentucky

Updated 4 Jan 2016
Elder Daniel Williams' Grave, Old Caney Cemetery
Photo contributed by Marla Taylor

Morgan County was formed in 1822 out of parts of Floyd and Bath Counties. The county was named in honor of Revolutionary War General Daniel Morgan (17361802).

West Liberty, the Morgan County seat, was founded in 1823 on the Licking River. Some early maps refer to it as New Liberty. As early as 1816 a settlement known as Wells Mills had been located there.

West Liberty was located near the Pound Gap Road, an early state road which had been an even earlier Indian Trail. This made the town strategically important during the Civil War with several skirmishes fought there, including one in which the courthouse was burned down in 1862.

About Morgan County

Population (2010): 13,923
Area: 384 Square Miles
County Seat: West Liberty, population (2010) 3,435
Other communities: Caney, Cannel City, Cottle, Crockett, Dingus, Elamton, Elkfork, Ezel, Grassy Creek, Lenox, Malone, Mima, Mize, Moon, Ophir, Relief, Stacy Fork, White Oak and Wrigley.
Neighboring Counties: Magoffin, Menifee, Rowan, Elliot, Lawrence, Johnson and Wolfe.

Research prior to 1860: Morgan was formed in 1822 mainly from Floyd to the north. Floyd was formed in 1800 mainly from Montgomery to the west and Mason to the east. Montgomery was formed in 1797 primarily from Bourbon, which had been formed in 1785 when Kentucky was still part of Virginia.

County records are retained in whatever county had jurisdiction during the year(s) being researched. Researchers should also be aware of which parent counties have lost records. Bourbon County Courthouse some records were lost in a fire on 8 May 1872. Floyd County Courthouse some records were destroyed by fire in Apr 1808. Montgomery County Courthouse fires on 4 Mar 1851 and 2 Dec 1863 destroyed many records. Morgan County Courthouse courthouse records were lost twice: in Oct 1862 and in 1925.

Earliest Settlement

Even though central Kentucky was being settled by 1775, it was 1800 or so before permanent settlement occurred in the area that is now Morgan County.  This area had been separated from Montgomery County in 1799 and organized as part of Floyd County.

In fact, many of those first settlers moved down to Floyd County from Montgomery County. According to John Sparks in his 2005 book Raccoon John Smith ... Daniel and Violet Williams and several members of both Sycamore and Bald Eagle [Baptist] Churches, including Ambrose and Martha Jones, William and Elizabeth Coffee, William and Catherine Ferguson, John and Margaret Hammond, Archibald and Sarah Prater and Randall Fugate migrated to the headwaters of the Licking River in what is now Morgan and Magoffin Counties, Kentucky. 

Elder Daniel Williams is said to have been the first preacher in the county and established the first church on White Oak Creek. Two years later it was moved to Caney Creek and was called the South Fork Church. Samuel Hanna, who had moved to Ohio from Kentucky returned and became Daniel Williams' preaching partner. During these early years at Caney and White Oak Creeks, Williams continued to preach back at Sycamore Church [Jeffersonville] in Montgomery County.

A settlement had been attempted in the area in 1794 but failed. A historical marker in what is now Magoffin County at Salyersville says "Archibald Prater, John Williams, Ebenezer Hanna, Clayton Cook and others attempted to settle here in 1794 but were driven out by Indians. They returned in 1800 and settled Licking Station on hill in horse shoe bend of river, a good defense against Indians." Magoffin was part of Morgan County until 1860.

In the early days, nearly all settlers located their homesteads near a good flowing creek. While there are many dozens of creeks, forks, traces and branches in Morgan County, the main waterways are the Licking River, Blackwater Cr., Caney Cr., Elk Fork, Rockhouse Cr. and White Oak Cr.

Visit Morgan County's creeks, hollows and back roads in this nicely done YouTube video.





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