KYGenWeb - Lee County

This site was last updated on 10/1/15

Welcome to the Lee County site within the KYGenWeb project

In the spring of 1996, a group of genealogists organized the Kentucky Comprehensive Genealogy Database Project, which evolved into the KyGenWeb Project. The idea was to provide a single entry point for genealogy data and research for all counties in Kentucky. In addition, the information for each county would be indexed and cross-linked to make it easier for researchers to find a name or data that they sought.  

In June 1996, as the KyGenWeb Project was nearing 100% county coverage, interested volunteers decided to create a similar set of pages for all states, establishing The USGenWeb Project. Volunteers were found who were willing to coordinate the efforts for each state, and additional volunteers were and are being sought to create and maintain websites for every county in the United States.

Your county coordinator for Lee County is Harlan Sloan

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LeeCounty Public Library
123 Center Street
Beattyville, KY 41311
Phone 606-464-8014
Fax: 606-464-2052

Unfortunately, there is not a current historical society for Lee County, KY

The 115th county in order of formation, Lee County is located in eastern Kentucky. Bordered by Breathitt, Estill, Owsley, Powell, and Wolfe counties, it has an area of 211 square miles. Lee County was formed on March 1, 1870, from portions of Breathitt, Estill, Owsley, and Wolfe counties, and in 1872 Beattyville was established as the county seat. Most sources say the county was named after Robert E. Lee, but others cite Lee County, Virginia, to which many of the county's inhabitants trace their roots. The latter is a more likely explanation, given the strong Union sentiment exhibited by the residents of this area during the Civil War.

The topography of Lee County is hilly to mountainous. The valleys are fertile and productive farmland. Tobacco and corn are staples of the agricultural economy. Apple orchards also provide a significant income for the county's farmers. Livestock, mostly beef cattle and chickens, is raised on a small scale, principally for home consumption. Much of Lee County is heavily forested with large stands of commercial hardwood timber. Oak, beech, black walnut, buckeye, yellow poplar, and pine are found abundantly within the woodlands of the area. Daniel Boone National Forest includes more than 7,000 acres of the western portion of the county. The Kentucky River rises in the county and flows through the middle. There are some sixty creeks in the county. Lee County also has substantial deposits of coal, iron ore, and oil.

The first explorer in the area was Dr. Thomas Walker, who traveled through Kentucky in 1750. Among the first settlers in the early 1800s were Josiah (or Jacob) Miller and his family and John and Michael Stufflebean. Some of the early settlers came into the area to mine SALTPETER, which was used to make gunpowder.

The Civil War badly divided the sympathies of the people of the Lee County area. Union sympathizers formed a Home Guard, headquartered at Rocky Gap, eight miles north of Beattyville. On November 7, 1864, a Confederate force under the command of Lt. Jerry South fought the 20th Kentucky Militia at the Middle Fork of the Kentucky River in Lee County.

Steamboats and railroads made Lee County and Beattyville a regional transportation center during the mid- and late 1800s. At the confluence of the three forks of the Kentucky River, Beattyville was the eastern terminus for steamboats on the river, and state and federal governments constructed locks and dams to improve the river. The railroads that supplanted riverboat shipping benefited Beattyville and Lee County. In November 1902, the Louisville & Atlantic Railroad (L&A) extended its Versailles-to-Irvine line to include Beattyville, and after the Louisville & Nashville (now CSX Transportation) acquired the L&A in 1909, it constructed a second road from Beattyville, by way of Irvine, to Winchester. Despite the fact that the route to Versailles was closed in 1932, the county remained a regional shipping center.

In the 1950s and 1960s, Lee County experienced a degree of exceptional prosperity from the production of oil and coal, but the industries declined steadily during the 1970s and 1980s. Other types of industrial development in Lee County included the production of lumber, concrete, agricultural lime, shoes, and glass-fiber boats.

The population was 6,587 in 1970; 7,754 in 1980; and 7,422 in 1990.

From The Kentucky Encyclopedia, edited by John Kleber. Copyright 1992

Click for Beattyville, Kentucky Forecast

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DISCLAIMER: All materials furnished on these pages are for free, non-commercial use by individuals. The information presented on them was either obtained from sources permitting free distribution, submitted by other researchers, or generated by myself. Any commercial use or distribution of the information obtained from this location without the consent of the author is strictly prohibited. Individuals posting or otherwise contributing material to this site do so in recognition of its non-commercial nature. The content of the information submitted by other researchershas not been verified and therefore the Lee County KyGenWeb and it's Coordinator cannot be held responsible for this content. If you have a problem with a particular entry, please contact the submitter of said entry. All information is copyrighted by the author. Any reproduction is strictly prohibited unless permission is granted by the author. Send all questions and/or comments to Harlan Sloan.