Owen County History


Owen County is the sixty-third county in order of formation and is located in the north-central "golden triangle" region of Kentucky. The county is bordered by Carroll, Franklin, Gallatin, Grant, and Henry counties and has an area of 354 square miles. Owen County was formed from sections of Franklin, Gallatin, and Scott counties on February 6, 1819, and was named in honor of Col. Abraham Owen, Indian fighter and Kentucky legislator, who was killed at the Battle of Tippecanoe. Colonel Owen also surveyed and mapped the region that became Owen County. The county seat is Owenton.

 Many of the pioneers made their homes on land grants along the many streams which flow through the county. Owen traces its history back to a period of wandering mastodons searching for salt licks and through thousands of years of habitation by ancient peoples. Evidence of prehistoric Native American inhabitants was discovered when settlers found the remains of numerous Native American burial mounds after the Revolutionary War.

In 1844, after the state began to construct locks and dams on the Kentucky River, packet boats on regular trips between Frankfort and Louisville made stops in Owen County at Moxley, Gratz, Monterey, and other towns. The community of New Liberty was founded before 1800 and was the site of one of the first churches. Other communities include the incorporated towns of Gratz, Monterey, and Sparta.

From the summer of 1862 to March 1865, the county was subjected to skirmishes and guerrilla warfare during the Civil War. Many Owen Countians were sympathetic to the Confederate cause and joined the armies of the South. During the course of the war, Federal troops had to fend off frequent attacks from Confederate forces at Lusby's Mill and Vanlandingham's farm, two very active recruiting camps. On March 28, 1864, a portion of New Liberty was destroyed by fire at an estimated loss of $120,000. Confederate Col. George M. Jessee gained control of most of the county by September 1864. After the war, the Democratic party maintained control of the county for many years. "Sweet Owen" was the nickname given to the county in the early 1850s by Democrat John C. Breckinridge, U.S. congressman, senator, and vice-president. In the 1851 and 1853 U.S. congressional elections, Owen County gave Democratic candidate Breckinridge a margin of victory in the 8th U.S. Congressional District, traditionally dominated by the Whig party.

Owen County, past and present, has a rich tradition of crafts, local artists, antiques and heirlooms. Annual organized events include the Owen County Fair and Horse Show, the Route 127 Yard Sale, Sweet Owen Days, the Chamber of Commerce Sporting Clays Shoot, the Monterey Fair and the Christmas parade.

 NEW!!   From the Owen County Historical Society 

Early Stations and Forts in Kentucky

Historical Markers in Owen County

 Kentucky County Lines - 1784-1834