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Boyd County, Kentucky

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Boyd County was the 107th of 120 counties formed in the state of Kentucky and was established in 1860 from parts of surrounding Greenup, Carter, and Lawrence counties. It was named for Linn Boyd of Paducah, former U.S. congressman, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, who died in 1859 soon after being elected lieutenant governor of Kentucky.

The earliest evidence of human habitation in Boyd County exists in the forms of numerous earthen mounds containing human skeletons and burial goods giving evidence that Native Americans inhabited the area. A 1973 archeological find revealed a serpent-shaped mound built of rocks dating to 2000 BC and stretching for 900 feet along a ridge parallel to the Big Sandy River south of Catlettsburg.

One of the early settlers in what is now Boyd County was Charles ("One-handed Charley") Smith, from Virginia. A veteran of the French and Indian War who had served under Col. George Washington in 1754, Smith received for that service roughly 400 acres around Chadwick's Creek, where he built a cabin in 1774. Smith died in 1776 and in 1797 this land passed to Alexander Catlett for whom the town of Catlettsburg is named.

Members of the Poage family built the steam-powered Clinton iron furnace in 1832, the earliest industry in present-day Boyd County. A total of twenty-nine charcoal-fueled iron furnaces operated on the Kentucky side of the Ohio River, seven of them in present-day Boyd County.

The Kentucky Iron, Coal and Manufacturing Company was incorporated on March 8, 1854, and it laid out the town of Ashland, then within Greenup County. The company purchased thousands of acres of coal, timber, and ore lands throughout the county. It invested US$210,000 in bonds of the Lexington & Big Sandy River Railroad Company, with the stipulation that the eastern division of that line extend into Ashland instead of ending, as originally planned, in Catlettsburg. The early presence of the railroad in Ashland was largely responsible for this city becoming the dominant municipality of the county.

Ashland furnace was sold to American Rolling Mill Company in 1921, which developed into Armco Steel Corporation. In 1963 Armco constructed the Amanda furnace, one of the largest blast furnaces in the world. Known today as AK Steel, the industry remains a major employer in northeastern Kentucky.

Ashland Oil, Inc., at one time the largest corporation headquartered in Kentucky, was started in 1924 at Leach Station, south of Catlettsburg, by Paul G. Blazer. Best known for their Valvoline Oil products, Ashland Oil relocated to Covington, Kentucky in 1999, merged with Marathon Oil, and sold its remaining petroleum shares to Marathon in 2005, dissolving their petroleum division. The original oil refinery, located in Catlettsburg, is still in operation today and is currently owned by Marathon Petroleum Corporation.

Calgon Carbon constructed the Big Sandy Plant in 1961 and it has since became the world's largest producer of granular activated carbon. The facility produces in excess of 100 million pounds of granular activated carbon annually.

Adjacent Counties

Cities & Communities

  • Ashland
  • Burnaugh
  • Cannonsburg
  • Catlettsburg (County Seat)
  • Coalton
  • Durbin
  • Ironville
  • Kavanaugh
  • Kilgore
  • Lockwood
  • Meads
  • Normal
  • Princess
  • Rockdale
  • Rush
  • Summit
  • Unity
  • Westwood



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