A History of Johnson County KY

A History of Johnson County


By J C C Mayo 1891

As transcribed from "The History Of Johnson Co." by Mitchell Hall

                Johnson County was organized in 1843, and took its name from Colonel Richard M. Johnson, vice President of the United States from 1837-1841, during Van Buren's Presidency. Col. Johnson's is one of the brightest names contributed by Kentucky to the immortal muster roll of the Nation's hero's and Statesman, being, preeminently, the hero of the decisive victory won over the Indians and British, October, 1813, at the battle of Thames, as well as distinguished for splendid abilities, as a state and national legislator.

                The soil of Johnson County, which is of a sandy nature in most parts underlain with a clay subsoil. The principal grades of timber found in large quantities, and merchantable, are poplar, ash, pine, oak, beech, hickory, locust, chestnut and sycamore.

                Iron ore is found in some localities, while coal is inexhaustible. Bituminous coal veins, raising from two and one half feet to eight feet in thickness are found throughout the county. A cannel coal mine has been opened four miles from Paintsville, on Sandy River, which measures as follows: Solid roof bituminous coal roof three inches, cannel coal forty-nine inches, bituminous coal eight inches, base of vein. Cannel coal is also found on the Eastern side of the Dandy River, in veins ranging from thirty to forty inches.

                Good church buildings are found in almost every locality, and schoolhouses have improved 100 percent in the last four years.

                Paintsville, the county seat, a town of 500 inhabitants will erect during the summer graded school buildings, costing eight thousand dollars. There are no saloons in town and the "local option" which prohibits, exists in every voting precinct in the county. Four murders only have been committed in this county since its formation, forty six years ago. The population now is about twelve thousand.


                There are about four miles of Railroad completed and in operation in the county. The same is a part of the Ohio, Kentucky and Virginia which is know as the ten-mile extension, of the Chattaroy Road, running to Mt. Carbon, Johnson County, Kentucky.

                There are no railroads in course of completion. Several surveys however have passed through the county up the big Sandy River-the surveys being those of the East Kentucky, Chattaroy and Chicago, Cincinnati and Charleston railroads. There is considerable talk in regard to the early completion of the C.C.& C. but nothing yet has been developed.

County Roads

                During the winter season the County Roads are in back condition, but are being traveled. Not only on horseback but by buggies, stages, etc. Our people are generally ready and willing to make and keep in repair the county roads. Our road law being a special act is regarded as a good and efficient one.


                Johnson has no turnpikes.



                Paint, Tom's and John's Creek furnish considerable water for propelling machinery. Barnett's, Jenny's Creek, Little Paint, Mud Lick, Greasy and other creeks are from ten to fifteen miles in length. Big Sandy River, flowing through the county, is navigable for steamboats and large rafts, perhaps two-thirds of the year.



                Hickory, ash, locust, chestnut, oak, beech, pine, walnut, poplar and other grades of lumber re found in this county.

The finest poplars and walnuts have been marketed. Other grades have been found in enormous quantities, especially oak, hickory, ash, and beech. Our people depend on timber for our revenue.


Agricultural Products

Corn, wheat, potatoes, and sorghum are produced in large quantities, yet nearly all is consumed in the county, except sorghum.



Herd's grass, timothy, orchard grass and clover seem best adapted to our soil. Bluegrass is being grown in some localities. It has, however, not been in the county Long enough to test its adaptability to the soil.


Methods of Agriculture

To some extent, Johnson County may be said to be improving its method of agriculture. A better class of farm implements is being introduced and used as an advantage over former methods.



The soil of our farming lands is noticeably improving. This results from the fact that farmers are generally raising more grass instead of large crops of corn and sorghum as heretofore.



There has been during the last two years no noteworthy immigration into our county, except in instances requiring miners for the cannel coal mines at Whitehouse in this county.



The population of the county has probably increased 5 percent-possibly more-within the last two years.


Mills and Manufactures

There has been during the same period, no addition to the mills and manufacturing industries of the county, except for the large number of portable sawmills within this county.


Preservation of the Forests

                Perhaps about forty percent of our county's territory is covered with timber; but no effect has of yet, been made to prevent the destruction of the forest.


Improved Field and Garden Seeds

                Within the last two years quite a disposition has been manitested by the farmers of Johnson County to obtain and use improved field and garden seed.


General Statistics

Farm laborers are plentiful in this county.

                The average price paid to a laboer with out a family, board and lodging furnished by the employer, is 11.80 a month. Average price paid where he furnishes his own board and lodging, is 16.80 a month. The average price paid for a laborer with family, the employer furnishing board and lodging for all, is $9.00 per month. Average price paid a laborer with family furnishing his own family's board and lodging is 14.75 a month.

                The county has 36 churches, 1 parsonage, and 62 schoolhouse.

                The average asessed value of the land in the county, according to the assessors returns for 1890, is $4.73 per acre - 164,525 acres/

                Johnson County has two mines of cannell coal, employing 130 men, and a total output for the year ending June 30, 1891, was 21,847 tons


This report was written for the ninth biennial report to the Bureau of Agriculture, of the State of Kentucky.

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