The town of Elizabethtown, Kentucky, was the birthplace of Colonel Harland Sanders, the founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC).
Knox County, located in southeastern Kentucky, has a rich and diverse history that stretches back thousands of years. The area was originally inhabited by Native American tribes, including the Cherokee and Shawnee, who relied on fertile land and plentiful game for sustenance. European settlers arrived in the late 18th century, drawn by the region's natural resources and opportunities for trade.

In the early 19th century, Knox County witnessed a period of rapid growth and development with the arrival of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad. The railroad expanded transportation options, encouraging the establishment of new businesses and industries, including coal mining and lumber. The county became a vital economic hub in the region, attracting immigrant workers from Europe and African Americans from the South to sustain these industries.

Like many communities in the United States, Knox County was not immune to the challenges of the Civil War. Divided loyalties resulted in conflicts and skirmishes in the area. Following the war, the economy of Knox County suffered, as traditional industries declined and agricultural practices faced challenges from changing markets and technologies.

In the 20th century, Knox County underwent a transformation with the advent of mechanized mining and the expansion of educational opportunities. Mining companies became major employers, shaping the local economy and culture. Additionally, education saw significant improvements with the establishment of public schools and institutions like Union College, enriching the intellectual and cultural landscape of the county. Today, Knox County continues to evolve, with a focus on attracting new industries, preserving its historical heritage, and improving quality of life for its residents.

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

  • 1799 - Knox County is established as one of the original nine counties of the state of Kentucky.
  • 1847 - The town of Barbourville is founded and becomes the county seat of Knox County.
  • 1861-1865 - Knox County, like many other counties in Kentucky, is divided during the American Civil War, with Union and Confederate sympathizers present in the area.
  • 1900s - The coal mining industry becomes prominent in Knox County, leading to economic growth and population increase.
  • 1937 - The Cumberland Gap National Historical Park is established, providing recreational opportunities and preserving the region's history.
  • 1946 - Union College, a private liberal arts college, is founded in Barbourville.
  • 1957 - Knox County High School is established, providing secondary education to students in the area.
  • 1986 - The Daniel Boone National Forest is established, protecting thousands of acres of land in Knox County and the surrounding region.
  • 2001 - The Fort Harlan Historic District, showcasing the history of early settlement in the region, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.