Kentucky is home to Mammoth Cave National Park, the world's longest known cave system with over 400 miles of explored passages.
Harlan County, KY, located in the southeastern part of the state, has a rich and varied history that spans over two centuries. The county was named after Silas Harlan, a prominent 18th-century pioneer and soldier, and was officially established in 1819. The region was originally inhabited by Native American tribes, such as the Cherokee and Shawnee, but European settlers began to arrive in the late 18th century.

In the early years, Harlan County's economy was primarily driven by agriculture, with crops like corn, tobacco, and timber being the main sources of income for many residents. The county's fertile lands and abundant natural resources made it an attractive area for settlement.

However, it was the discovery of coal in the late 19th century that would truly shape the future of Harlan County. The development of coal mines brought an influx of new residents and transformed the region into a thriving mining community. Coal mining became the backbone of the county's economy, providing jobs and prosperity for many years.

The 20th century brought significant changes to Harlan County. The area became known for its labor struggles, particularly during the 1930s and 1970s. Miners fought for better working conditions, fair wages, and the recognition of labor unions. The Battle of Evarts in 1931 and the Brookside Strike of 1973 were noteworthy events that showcased the determination and resilience of Harlan County miners and their families.

In recent years, Harlan County has faced economic challenges as the decline of the coal industry has resulted in job losses and population decline. However, the county continues to preserve its history and culture through attractions such as the Kentucky Coal Mining Museum and the Portal 31 Underground Mine Tour. Today, Harlan County is known for its beautiful landscapes, rich heritage, and the indomitable spirit of its residents.

This timeline provides a glimpse into the major events and milestones that have shaped the history of Harlan County, Kentucky.

  • 1790s: Harlan County is first settled by pioneers from Virginia and Tennessee.
  • 1861-1865: Harlan County residents divided during the Civil War, with some supporting the Union and others the Confederacy.
  • 1900s: Harlan County experiences a boom in coal mining, attracting many workers to the area.
  • 1930s: Harlan County becomes a center of labor disputes, with coal miners organizing strikes to demand better working conditions.
  • 1973: The documentary film "Harlan County, USA" depicts the violent confrontations between striking miners and company security forces.
  • 1980s: Decline of coal mining industry leads to economic struggles in Harlan County.
  • 1990s: Efforts are made to diversify the economy, focusing on tourism and natural resources.
  • 2000s: Harlan County continues to face challenges related to unemployment and poverty.