Letcher County is a county located in the U.S. state of Kentucky. As of the 2020 census, the population was 21,548. Its county seat is Whitesburg. It was created in 1842 from Harlan and Perry counties, and named for Robert P. Letcher, Governor of Kentucky from 1840 to 1844.
|Named for||Robert P. Letcher|
|• Total||339 sq mi (880 km2)|
|• Land||338 sq mi (880 km2)|
|• Water||1.1 sq mi (3 km2) 0.3%|
| • Estimate |
|• Density||64/sq mi (25/km2)|
|Time zone||UTC−5 (Eastern)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC−4 (EDT)|
Letcher County was formed in 1842 as Kentucky's 95th county, from portions of Harlan and Perry counties, and named for Robert P. Letcher, who was the governor of Kentucky at that time. Its county seat, Whitesburg, was called Summit City before becoming the seat, the city was renamed in honor of John D. White, who introduced the county's enactment bill in the State legislature. In 1884 Letcher County contributed 80 square miles toward the formation of Knott County.
In the early 1900s coal arrived in Letcher County, a once small and sparsely populated county, began a population and economic boom, and by 1940 the county had reached a population of over 40,000. Between 1990 and 2014, Letcher County had produced over 600,000,000 tons of coal.
On March 9, 1976, in the community of Oven Fork, an explosion caused by coal dust and gasses occurred at the Scotia Mine, resulting in the deaths of 15 miners. Two days later another explosion occurred, killing 11 more miners. Investigators believe that the explosions were caused by methane gases that were ignited by a spark caused by a battery-powered device. The accidents are often considered two of the worst mining disasters in U.S. history. The two explosions led to the passage of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977.
Harry M. Caudill's 1963 book, Night Comes to the Cumberlands: A Biography of a Depressed Area, brought the county to national attention. The CBS documentary Christmas in Appalachia (1964) hosted by Charles Kuralt also brought the nation's attention to Letcher County as citizens sent clothes and gifts in response to the conditions of those featured.
In July–August 2022, floods came through Eastern Kentucky. A total of 45 people died, three of those deaths occurred in Letcher County. As a result of the floods, many people were left homeless.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 339 square miles (880 km2), of which 338 square miles (880 km2) is land and 1.1 square miles (2.8 km2) (0.3%) is water. Letcher County's natural areas include Bad Branch Falls and the Lilley Cornett Woods.
Adjacent counties edit
- Knott County (northwest)
- Pike County (northeast)
- Wise County, Virginia (southeast)
- Harlan County (south)
- Perry County (southwest)
National protected area edit
- Jefferson National Forest (part)
State protected area edit
- Bad Branch Falls State Nature Preserve
- Lilley Cornett Woods Experiment Station (Eastern Kentucky University)
State Parks edit
Pioneer Horse Trail controversy edit
In an effort to bring tourists to Letcher County and to revitalize the local economy, the Pioneer Horse Trail was constructed on Pine Mountain. The trail, part of an "adventure tourism" initiative spearheaded by then Governor Steve Beshear, Beshear's wife Jane, and Lieutenant Governor Daniel Mongiardo, was completed in 2009.
However, controversy arose about whether the environment would be harmed during construction. In the summer of 2008, the Letcher County Fiscal Court had signed an agreement with state officials stating that the county would do an environmental impact study before construction would begin. Documents obtained by the Lexington Herald-Leader under Kentucky's Open Records Act showed that construction actually began before the study was to take place. County-owned bulldozers started clearing trees in part of a wildlife management area in which heavy equipment was not permitted. Environmental groups are asking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to determine if any species on the threatened or endangered list were harmed.
|U.S. Decennial Census|
As of the census of 2000, there were 25,277 people, 10,085 households, and 7,462 families residing in the county. The population density was 75 per square mile (29/km2). There were 11,405 housing units at an average density of 34 per square mile (13/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 98.71% White, 0.51% Black or African American, 0.10% Native American, 0.28% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.03% from other races, and 0.35% from two or more races. 0.44% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 10,085 households, out of which 32.30% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 58.40% were married couples living together, 11.50% had a female householder with no husband present, and 26.00% were non-families. 24.10% of all households were made up of individuals, and 10.10% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.48 and the average family size was 2.94.
The age distribution was 23.70% under the age of 18, 9.20% from 18 to 24, 28.70% from 25 to 44, 25.80% from 45 to 64, and 12.60% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 95.80 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 92.10 males.
The median income for a household in the county was $21,110, and the median income for a family was $24,869. Males had a median income of $30,488 versus $17,902 for females. The per capita income for the county was $11,984. About 23.70% of families and 27.10% of the population were below the poverty line, including 35.90% of those under age 18 and 21.20% of those age 65 or over.
Two public school districts operate in the county.
Letcher County Public Schools edit
This sectionion needs additional citations for verification. (January 2011)
Most K-12 students in the county, with the exception of those living in the far eastern part of the county surrounding Jenkins, are served by the Letcher County Public Schools. The district operates nine elementary/middle schools, one vocational school, one high school, and an alternative education center.
In 2005, the doors to the new Letcher County Central High School were opened in Ermine (the school's postal address, however, is in Whitesburg), with total costs of over $25,000,000. The school's nickname is the Cougars, and the school colors are blue, black, and silver. The school volleyball team has been to the state tournament every year since its creation and the wrestling team has had multiple regional champions. The baseball team has claimed three region titles in 2007, 2011, and 2013, with two state tournament appearances and one semi-state appearance. The boys Cross Country team has had 3 region championships and an individual region champion. The Girls basketball team made a State sweet sixteen appearance.
Jenkins Independent Schools edit
Students in the Jenkins area are served by the Jenkins Independent Schools, which operates two elementary schools (located on two campuses in the communities of McRoberts and Burdine) and a combined middle and high school with grades 7–12. Jenkins Independent Schools celebrated its 100th year in 2012. The middle/high school's athletic nickname is the Cavaliers/Lady Cavaliers. The school colors are Kelly Green and White.
Letcher County has a somewhat similar political history to West Virginia. Under the Fourth Party System it was a reliable Republican county, voting Republican in every election from 1884 to 1928. However, with increasing unionization under the New Deal it turned for the next sixty to seventy years into a fairly solid Democratic county, apart from the 1956 and 1972 landslides and the candidacy of John F. Kennedy. However, since 2004 as the Democratic Party has become opposed to coal production due to global warming issues, it has now become a solidly Republican county.
However, in the 2023 Kentucky Gubernatorial Election, popular incumbent Governor Andy Beshear won Letcher County by a margin of 4 points, marking the first instance since 2011 that a Democrat clinched victory in the county in any statewide race.
Coal companies in Letcher County edit
Two Public-access television cable TV channels serve Letcher County. The Letcher County Government Channel is Government-access television (GATV), operated by the Letcher County Fiscal Court and airs government meetings, local events, and emergency information. LCPS-TV is operated by the Letcher County Public Schools and airs school announcements, events, and Educational access television programs.
- The Mountain Eagle
- Letcher County Community News-Press
This section needs to be updated.(February 2020)
- Whitesburg's July 4 Celebration, is a free event held on the Fourth of July at Riverside Park. The event includes free music, entertainment, fireworks and fun.
- Whitesburg Labor Day Celebration, a one-day festival held in Riverside Park on Labor Day Monday. It features food, as well as free music, entertainment and inflatables for the kids.
- The town of Fleming-Neon, hosts its annual Neon Area Days the second Friday and Saturday in September. Neon is home to gospel singer Martha Carson. In 1998 she returned to Neon for the festival and was honored.
- The Mountain Heritage Festival is held in Whitesburg during the last full week of September.
- In Jenkins, Jenkins Homecoming Days are also celebrated annually in August.
Census-designated places edit
Other unincorporated places edit
Notable people edit
- Harry M. Caudill (1922–1990), author, historian, professor, lawyer, legislator, and environmentalist
- Jack K. Hale (1928–2009), mathematician
- Emery L. Frazier (Mayor, state representative, Chief Clerk of the U.S. Senate, Secretary of the U.S. Senate, 1896–1973)
- Gary Stewart (Country music singer and musician, 1944–2003)
- Martha Carson (Country/gospel music singer, 1920–2004)
- Jean Chapel (Country music singer, 1925–1995)
- Paul Mason (July 5, 1935 – December 7, 1998) was an American politician and activist who served in the Kentucky House of Representatives from the 91st district from 1987 until his death in 1998.
- Lee Sexton (Country, bluegrass, old-time musician)
- Tom Gish, died 2008, publisher of the Mountain Eagle in Whitesburg, grew up in the county
- Francis Gary Powers (August 17, 1929 – August 1, 1977) was an American pilot whose CIA U-2 spy plane was shot down while over the Soviet Union, causing the 1960 U-2 incident.
- Kenny Baker (June 26, 1926 – July 8, 2011) was an American fiddle player best known for his 25-year tenure with Bill Monroe and his group The Blue Grass Boys.
- Jessamyn Duke (mixed-martial artist, professional wrestler)
- Jim Webb (September 24, 1945 – October 22, 2018) was an Appalachian poet, playwright, and essayist.
See also edit
- "State & County QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved September 8, 2022.
- "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Archived from the original on May 31, 2011. Retrieved June 7, 2011.
- "Populations of Kentucky (KY) Cities - Alphabetical Listing of Cities - page 2". Togetherweteach.com. Retrieved June 4, 2013.
- Rennick, Robert (March 1, 2002). "Letcher County - Post Offices". County Histories of Kentucky.
- "Letcher County". Kyenc.org. May 30, 1927. Archived from the original on September 4, 2015. Retrieved June 4, 2013.
- The Register of the Kentucky State Historical Society, Volume 1. Kentucky State Historical Society. 1903. p. 36.
- Collins, Lewis (1877). History of Kentucky. Library Reprints, Incorporated. p. 463. ISBN 9780722249208.
- "County History". Letcher County. Retrieved May 23, 2023.
- Fink, Ben (March 26, 2020). "How a conservative coal county built the biggest community solar energy project in East Kentucky". Brookings. Retrieved May 23, 2023.
- "Census Records". National Archives. December 7, 2017. Retrieved May 23, 2023.
- "How much coal has left Letcher? What's still here?". The Mountain Eagle. May 10, 2017. Retrieved May 23, 2023.
- Talbott, Tim. "Scotia Mine Disaster". ExploreKYHistory. Retrieved May 23, 2023.
- "Scotia Mine Explosion". usminedisasters.miningquiz.com. Retrieved May 23, 2023.
- "Wet & Dry Counties in Kentucky" (PDF). Kentucky Office of Alcoholic Beverage Control. August 19, 2005. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 15, 2007. Retrieved March 17, 2007.
- "TV Review; Stark Poverty of One Million Americans". The New York Times. December 22, 1964. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved February 5, 2023.
- "East Kentucky Flood". The Daily Yonder. April 14, 2023. Retrieved May 23, 2023.
- "The flood of 2022". The Mountain Eagle. August 3, 2022. Retrieved May 23, 2023.
- "2010 Census Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. August 22, 2012. Archived from the original on August 12, 2014. Retrieved August 17, 2014.
- Mead, Andy (December 26, 2008). "Horse trail in trouble from start". Lexington Herald-Leader. Retrieved December 26, 2008.
- "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Counties: April 1, 2020 to July 1, 2022". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved April 2, 2023.
- "U.S. Decennial Census". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved August 17, 2014.
- "Historical Census Browser". University of Virginia Library. Retrieved August 17, 2014.
- "Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved August 17, 2014.
- "Census 2000 PHC-T-4. Ranking Tables for Counties: 1990 and 2000" (PDF). United States Census Bureau. Archived (PDF) from the original on March 27, 2010. Retrieved August 17, 2014.
- "LCPS Home". Archived from the original on January 15, 2010. Retrieved February 6, 2016. Letcher County Central High School
- "Letcher County Central 2011 Kentucky High School Baseball". Scoreboard.12dt.com. Retrieved June 4, 2013.
- "Kentucky High School Athletic Association". khsaa.org.
- Jenkins Elementary School Archived August 24, 2007, at the Wayback Machine Retrieved on December 21, 2008.
- "Presidential election of 1884 - Map by counties". geoelections.free.fr.
- The Political Graveyard; Letcher County, Kentucky
- Leip, David. "Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections". uselectionatlas.org. Retrieved July 3, 2018.
- [Alpha Natural Resources - 2012 Kentucky Operations]
- "James River Coal Company – Blue Diamond complex".
- "Rhino Resource Partners - Central Appalachia". Archived from the original on July 25, 2020. Retrieved June 20, 2013.
- "METINVEST :: What we do :: Our facilities". ucc.metinvestholding.com.
- Conroy, Marcus (July 4, 2010). "Local County Channel becoming popular". WYMT-TV. Archived from the original on July 7, 2010. Retrieved July 4, 2010.
- "LCPS-TV Information". Letcher County Public Schools. Archived from the original on August 19, 2011. Retrieved July 4, 2010.
- "LKLP Community Action Council, Inc. > Programs > Public Transportation". Retrieved May 19, 2015.
Further reading edit
- Blackford, Linda B. (December 14, 2013). "Schools improving in Eastern Kentucky, but progress 'painfully slow'". Lexington Herald-Leader.