Rowan County Kentucky Reference Shelf

 About Rowan County


Rowan County was formed in 1856 as Kentucky's 104th county from parts of Morgan County and Fleming County. It was named for John Rowan, a Kentucky member of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. Rowan County is located in the region that the Kentucky Atlas calls the Eastern Coal Fields, and the Kentucky Department of Tourism calls the Eastern Highlands. The elevation in the county ranges from 625 to 1435 feet above sea level. In 1990 the county population was 20,353 in a land area of 280 square miles, an average of 72.7 people per square mile. The major industries are lumber and clay.

The county seat (and only sizeable town) is Morehead, situated on Triplett Creek, at the conjunction of I-64 and KY 32. Settlers arrived by the early part of the nineteenth century, and a post office opened there as Triplett in 1817. (At the time, the area was part of Bath Co.) The city of Morehead was founded in 1856, when Rowan county was formed, and named for James T. Morehead, a governor of Kentucky. The population in 1990 was 8,357. Smaller communities in Rowan County include Clearfield, Elliottville (formerly Hoggtown), Farmers and Haldeman. Much of the county is within the Daniel Boone National Forest.

Rowan County is bordered on the northwest by Fleming County, on the north by Lewis County, on the northeast by Carter County, on the southeast by Elliott County and Morgan County, and on the southwest by Menifee County and Bath County.

Morehead is the home of Morehead State University, known as "Kentucky's University of the mountains." The MSU library system is of special interest to local historians. The Special Collections room houses such items as rural school censuses, a series of Sanborn insurance maps from 1908, 1914, 1928 and 1941, photographic archives, and oral history interviews. The Government Documents collection has federal census microfilms (I haven't checked the exact holdings), as well as microfilms of over 60 early Kentucky newspapers, which are available through interlibrary loan.

  Rowan County Highway Map (Warning: This is a large image, 425K, 37 inches square)


Rowan County Addresses

Since I live in California, it is hard for me to keep track of current hours, rates, etc. Please let me know if you discover updated information.

Address Hours Holdings & Comments
Rowan County Public Library
185 East First Street
Morehead, KY 40351

(606) 784-7137
M, Tu, Th, F 9 am - 5 pm
W 9 am - 8 pm
Sat 9 am - 3 pm
Closed Sunday
microfilm copies of Morehead News
from 1939 - present
Morehead News
722 W. 1st Street
Morehead, KY 40351

(606) 784-4116
fax: (606) 874-7337
8 am - 5 pm weekdays

subscription rates (one year)

  Local*................ $31.00**
  Elsewhere in Ky....... $42.00**
  Elsewhere in the US... $45.00

* Rowan and all bordering counties
** price includes KY sales tax

Rowan County Clerk
Morehead, KY 40351

(606) 784-5212
M-F 8:00 am - 4:00 pm
Sat 9 am - 12 noon
marriages, land, probate
(Earlier records lost in courthouse fires.)
Rowan County Historical Society
P. O. Box 60
Morehead, KY 40351
Meeting at County Library
7 pm first Thursday of each month.

Dues $10 year.
Newsletter published quarterly (Mar, Jun, Sep, Dec)
Camden-Carroll Library
Morehead State University
Morehead, KY 40351

(606) 783-2251 Reference Desk
(606) 783-2829 Special Collections
(606) 783-5107 Interlibrary Loans
(606) 783-2160 Gov't Documents
Varies by school session;
let them tell you.
See description under About Rowan County,
or visit their web page.

 Available Publications


Note: This listing of publications available for sale by other individuals or organizations is offered to assist you in finding reference material to aid in your research. None of these publications has any connection to KyGenWeb, USGenWeb, or to the coordinator of this site. They are not paid advertising, and no income is derived from posting them here.

Lookup Volunteers Needed! If you have a copy of any of these publications in your personal library, and are willing to have your email address posted here to respond to requests for lookups of genealogical data contained within, please contact the site owner Teri Pettit. To comply with copyright laws, all lookup responses must be limited to fair use (i.e., a few names, not significant portions of the book), and to comply with USGenWeb rules, no lookup or copying fee can be charged.


  picture of Mount Pisgah cemetery  

Cemetery Book Set

The Rowan County Historical Society's cemetery survey project was 3 1/2 years in the making, involving over 100 volunteers contributing over 12,000 hours of effort. (The 130 cemetery surveys on this web site represent a "snapshot" of the Historical Society's Cemetery Project as it stood in the fall of 1999. The completed books and CD contain at least 3 times the number of burials recorded on this web site.)

The cemetery book set consists of five (5) volumes totalling over 1,000 pages. Four volumes cover the 300 cemeteries within Rowan County, and the fifth volume covers 75-80 cemeteries bordering Rowan County, including Carter, Elliott, Fleming and Morgan counties. Generously illustrated, the books include photos of all but a few out-of-county cemeteries. The books are bound with semi-soft covers featuring one or more of the Rowan County cemeteries in color, with a plastic overlay for protection.

The second printing was made in May 2002 with several additional cemeteries as well as all the burial updates through April 30, 2002.

Cost of the complete set of five books is $110 plus $15 for shipping ($125 total).


Cemetery CD

The Rowan County Cemetery Survey is also available on CD. The CD contains all the individual cemetery files, including all the photographs in full color, plus all of the cemeteries combined into one large file for searching. A typical search through all 375 cemeteries can locate an individual in 2-3 seconds.

The CD also contains two installable Viewers, to view, search and print any of the files on the CD. Instructions for installing the viewers are included. The viewers will run on any computer using Windows 95, 98, Win2000 or Windows ME with a CD ROM or DVD drive. No viewer is provided for Macintosh, but the files are in Excel format, so Macintosh users can view the surveys and photos using Microsoft Excel or any program that can import Excel files.

Cost of the CD is $36.00 including shipping. A CD found defective will be replaced free of charge upon returning the CD.


For those who already purchased the first edition of the book set or CD and who want the updates, a new CD can be purchased for the special price of $10.50.

Books and CD's should both be ordered from:

Dewie E. Black
P. O. Box 1134
LaBelle, FL 33975
Phone: (863) 675-0205
Fax:  (863) 675-6491
Email: <>


  picture of book cover  

A Pictorial History of Rowan County, Kentucky

This yearbook-sixed hardcover book was compiled by the Rowan County Historical Society and published in 2001 by Turner Publishing Company of Paducah, KY.

The book is 272 pages long and most pages contain 4 to 6 pictures, although it varies from 1 to 19.

It is divided into sections with pictures grouped by topic. Sections include Families, Children, Couples, Memorials & Tributes, Transportation, Farming, Businesses, Veterans, Government, Churches, Schools, Organizations, Styles, Homes & Buildings. Within each section the pictures proceed in increasing date order, starting as early as available and ending sometime in the 50's. An exception is the Memorials & Tributes section; it appears that these sections were sponsored. Each tribute honors a person or family and a lot of them include pictures up through the 1970's.

Copies are available now for $44.95 plus $6.00 shipping. Kentucky residents add 6% sales tax ($2.70)

Rowan County Historical Society
P. O. Box 60
Morehead, KY 40351

Contact Helen Surmont at <> or Betty Sharp at <> for more details or to check availability.



Morehead Memories

Published in April 2001 by the Jesse Stuart Foundation, this 591 page book by Jack D. Ellis chronicles the growth of Morehead from the establishment of the first settlements in the early 1800's to the present day. It is illustrated with approximately 110 photographs.

Chapter headings are:

  1. Faith vs Feuds: Church and Conflict
  2. Early Entrepreneurs: Visions of the Future
  3. Building Businesses: Sales and Service
  4. Medical Men and Women: Healing the Sick
  5. School Superintendents: Leaders in Education
  6. High School History: Sports, Band, Drama
  7. Publishers and Printers: The Paper Trail
  8. Federal Functions: Post Office and CCC Camps
  9. Flood and Fire: Deluge and Ashes
  10. Bookmobiles and Black History
  11. Arts and Entertainments
  12. Appendix: Rowan County Officials

Emphasis in chapters 3 to 11 is on the period between 1920 and 1960, although significant events before and after are covered briefly. It includes a bibliography, but no index.

Copies can be ordered for $35 plus shipping from the publisher's web site, JSF Books, or from Amazon.

  picture of book cover  


Books and Tapes from White Crow Enterprises

Days of Anger, Days of Tears

First time in print since 1992. Extensively rewritten, now containing the stories of the Underwood War (Carter County 1877-1879) and the Rowan County War or Tolliver-Martin Feud (1884-1887). 8 1/2 by 11 softbound. 100 pages of narrative text, eighteen pages of photos, family information, births, deaths and the Feud song.

By Juanita Blair and Fred Brown.

$30.00 plus $4.00 shipping. Kentucky residents add $1.80 sales tax.


Valley of the Shadow

Audio casette of the Tolliver-Martin Feud or Rowan County War. Sixty minute dramatic presentation detailing the vendetta from the first shot on the courthouse lawn to the final showdown on Railroad Street. Narrator Robert Sloan brings the past to life.

Script by Robert Sloan and Fred Brown

$12.00 shipped. Kentucky residents add 72 cents sales tax.


Smoke in the Woods, Vol. 1 and 2

Each volume of this collection contains cemetery records, Bible records, newspaper stories and journal entries from Rowan, Elliott, Menifee, Bath, Fleming, Lewis, Carter and Morgan counties. Each also contains two 1890 Civil War Veterans censuses. 100 pages each, fully indexed. 8 1/2 by 11 softbound.

Compiled by Fred Brown.

$15.00 each or $28.00 for the set, shipping included.

Order all from:

White Crow Enterprises
210 Morehead Plaza
Morehead, KY  40351

Contact Fred Brown at <> for further details.



The Centennial Edition of The Rowan County News

In 1956, on the 100th anniversary of the birth of Rowan County, The Rowan County News published a special edition focusing on the history of Rowan County and its residents. This volume was 100 pages long, and has been reissued in a softbound facimile edition by The Rowan County News's successor paper, the Morehead News. The pages are typical newspaper size, so it is a bit bulky. There are hundreds of sketches on area families. Most of them are lean on dates, but they can be a help in outlining family relationships, as well as providing the kind of colorful anecdotes you don't get from a census listing or marriage register. The staff of the Camden-Carroll Library at MSU has catalogued the headlines and captions of many of the articles and pictures of historical or genealogical interest. As is typical of a newspaper, there is no surname index, so I cannot volunteer to do lookups, but it is well worth buying your own copy.

The facimile edition can be ordered by mail or phone from the Morehead News at the address in the table above, for $17.50, which includes $5.00 shipping. (It can be picked up at the newspaper office for $12.50.) Kentucky residents add state and local sales tax.


Other Online Info about Rowan County

This section contains miscellaneous links to Rowan County information at other web sites:
  • Bob Sloan's Sampler  (Creative Writer and Radio Speaker at Morehead State)
  • Kentucky Communities page for Morehead
  • Morehead Chamber of Commerce
  • Rowan County Census Tract Map (1990)
  • Rowan County Railroads
  • Population and Housing Statistics
  • The BEAR Facts (Bureau of Economic Analysis Report)
  • Today's Weather Report for Rowan County
  • Rowan County Genealogist Address Search
  • 1895 Kentucky Atlas Map
  • Rowan County Tiger Map (A scalable map computer-generated from a USGS database)
  • Rowan County Population Values from 1790 to 1990
  • Rowan Co Ky Census Info 1992-1999

  • Family home pages with Rowan County connections

    (This section of links, formerly on this page, has been moved to its own page. This note is here for people who may be following an old link or favorites bookmark.)

    This page is designed and maintained by Teri Pettit. Please email me if any links are broken. Permission is granted to copy any information, images, or links from this page, so long as it is not used for commercial purposes.

    Last updated on 23 May 2005.