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ADAIR COUNTY, KENTUCKY

PHOTOS:
The Pleasant Ridge Church. (Pleasant Ridge United Methodist Church, near Keltner, Kentucky).


Adair County was formed out of Green County in 1802. The county is named for John Adair, Governor of Kentucky 1820-24.

Its county seat is Columbia, Kentucky.

Adair County lies in the heart of South Central Kentucky.

It is known for its ideal location between Green River Reservoir (completed in 1969), Dale Hollow Lake State Park, Barren River State Park, and Lake Cumberland State Park--four of Kentucky's best fishing & recreation lakes.

Historical sites abound in Adair County, with the Trabue-Russell House, listed on the National Register of Historical Places, and the log home of Janice Holt Giles, a well-known Kentucky writer. The town square surrounds the Courthouse, which was built in 1884, and Columbia boasts such visitors as General John Hunt Morgan, Jessie James--who is said to have robbed the Bank of Columbia in 1872--and Theodore O'Hara, who finished the military eulogy "Bivouac of the Dead" in a rooming house on the Square.

Pre-historic people occupied this land with its abundance of game and water. They left mounds and artifacts. Later, Native Americans had no permanent settlements but came to hunt and fish. Their trails followed the animals' trails. This was part of a vast expanse of unexplored land considered the western portion of Virginia when Virginia was still a colony of England. When early frontiersmen poured through the Cumberland Gap, Native Americans fought to save their hunting grounds. England claimed land as did France--both countries, at times, inciting Native Americans to attack forts of the settlers.

In 1770, Long Hunters from Virginia and North Carolina, led by Col. James Knox came to this area to explore, hunt, and stay from home for a long time. This frontier land offered abundant game, timber for building, fresh water springs, and waterways. Daniel Boone probably was in this area, too. They stored animal furs and skins in a temporary shelter called the "skin house" beside a stream still called the Skin House Branch. It flows into Russell Creek named for a Long Hunter named Russell. A church now occupies the site of the Long Hunters' camp.

In 1789, Col. William Casey and his wife, Jane (Montgomery), with their family and about 30 other families established the Casey/Butler Fort--the first permanent settlement in what is now Adair County. They came from Logan's larger fort at Stanford, Kentucky, and crossed the Green River at Plum Point. In 1793, the Caseys bought land away from the fort and developed a large farm. Their 1816 house, indicted by a historic marker, is on KY Highway West 80. (Photo below.)

In 1792, Kentucky became the 15th state and Green County, including land that is now Adair County, was formed. One of the Caseys' great-grandsons was Mark Twain. Twain's parents, Jane Lampton and John Marshall Clemens, were married in Columbia in 1823. A year later, they moved to Tennessee and later, Missouri where Twain, their sixth child, was born in 1835. As a young girl, Jane lived in a house no longer standing near the public square. (Photo below.)

In 1794, frontiersmen defeated Native Americans in the Battle of Fallen Timbers in Ohio. The same year men from this area went to Tennessee and destroyed Native American villages. These two events stopped further attacks by Native Americans in this part of Kentucky. The influx of settlers, some bringing slaves, greatly increased. Many came to claim land that Virginia had set aside between the Green and Cumberland Rivers as payment to men who fought in the Revolutionary War.

Early settlers followed trails made by bison between water and mineral licks. These trails became many of our major roadbeds. In 1801, Adair County--Kentucky's 44th county--was formed from Green County. It was named for General Adair, who never lived here, but served with Col. William Casey in early Kentucky government. Adair was Speaker of the House in Kentucky at that time. Casey's name was given to a county five years later. He is the only Adair County resident to have a county namesake.

A place of crossing trails called for trading posts and taverns or inns for people and stables for their horses. It meant the need for food supplies, builders, teachers, blacksmiths, and many service providers. Three men with vision--William Caldwell, Col. Daniel Trabue, and Creed Haskins--bought 50 acres where the crossing trails caused a settlement to begin. They speculated that their acreage would be a fitting place for a county seat. An influential land owner, James Walker, who also wanted the county seat to be near his property, donated 20 acres adjacent to the 50. Governor Garrard then appointed men to the first Adair County government with a settlement called Columbia as the county seat. Elections for county officials were not held in Kentucky until 1851.

Frontier people loved their new county. Choosing a name, Columbia, which means the United States, seemed fitting. That word was in common usage in 1800 as having that meaning. Hail Columbia was the national anthem. (Not until 1931 was the present national anthem adopted.)

Col. Daniel Trabue, one of Columbia's founders, wrote a first-hand account of his many adventures in frontier Kentucky. Now in book form, Westward into Kentucky by Chester Young, tells about his many experiences: delivering a message from LaFayette in the Revolutionary War, supplying the forts, bringing his family on a flat boat down the Ohio River, and being a part of early Columbia.

Population:
As of 2000, the population was 17,244.

Historical populations
Census Population
1810 6,011
1820 8,765
1830 8,217
1840 8,466
1850 9,898
1860 9,509
1870 11,065
1880 13,078
1890 13,721
1900 14,888
1910 16,503
1920 17,289
1930 16,401
1940 18,566
1950 17,603
1960 14,699
1970 13,037
1980 15,233
1990 15,360
2000 17,244
Est. 2006 17,650

Geography
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 412 square miles (1,068 kmē), of which, 407 square miles (1,054 kmē) of it is land and 5 square miles (14 kmē) of it (1.31%) is water.