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Harlan County, Kentucky

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  • Jesse Brock (1751 - 1843)
    ===Jesse Brock Birth: Dec. 8, 1751 Cumberland County Virginia, USA Death: Oct. 13, 1843 Harlan Harlan County Kentucky, USA Descendants Y DNA Haplogroup is J, indicating European origin fa...
  • John Lee Sr. (1815 - 1895)
  • James Calvin Brock, Sr. (1759 - 1831)
    I was informed via e-mail, from Dr. K.B. Tankersley, that through DNA studies of the descendants of Aaron Brock that James is definately his son . . . Brock (Tsalagi' Ugvwiyuhi Totsu'hwa Red Bi...
  • James Crider (1864 - 1944)
  • Henry Floyd Hensley Jr. (1889 - 1971)

Please add profiles of those who were born, lived or died in Harlan County, Kentucky.


Harlan County was formed in 1819. It is named after Silas Harlan. With the help of his uncle Jacob and his brother James, Harlan built a log stockade near Danville, which was known as "Harlan's Station".

The Harlan County War in the 1930s consisted of violent confrontations among strikers, strikebreakers, mine company security forces, and law enforcement. These events resulted in the county being called "Bloody Harlan." After the Battle of Evarts, May 5, 1931, Kentucky governor Flem D. Sampson called in the National Guard to restore order.

Descendants of free people of color, some of whose members have been called Melungeon, have documented the racial heritage of Harlan's early settlers through 19th-century photographs, DNA analysis such as the Melungeon DNA Project, and historic records.

The county was the subject of the documentary film Harlan County, USA (1976), directed by Barbara Kopple. It documented organizing during a second major period of labor unrest in the 1970s, particularly around the Brookside Strike. Harlan County War (2000) was a dramatic film based on the Eastover/Brookside strike. Directed by Tony Bill and starring Holly Hunter. Thunder Road (film) (1958) was a dramatic film about moonshiners based in Harlan County and starring Robert Mitchum.

In 2007, the Ridgetop Shawnee Tribe of Indians formed as a non-profit organization to work on improving the lives of multiracial families and preserving Native American heritage, structures and artifacts in the area. It established the Kentucky Native American Data Bank, which has the names of 1,000 people of documented Native American descent related to this region; it is accessible for free on the Rootsweb Internet site. Now known as the Ridgetop Shawnee, they have become the heritage arm of Pine Mountain Indian Community, LLC, which since 2013 has taken the lead in working on economic development in the region.

In 2019, the county was the site of the 2019 Harlan County coal miners protest, one in a long history of coal mining. Coal miners demanded back payment from a coal company that fired them shortly after declaring bankruptcy. They occupied a railroad track and prevented a coal train from leaving the county for almost two months.

Harlan County is mentioned in many versions of the 18th-century folk song "Shady Grove". The famous labor song, "Which Side Are You On?", was written by Florence Reece in 1931 in and about Harlan. It has been covered by many artists from Pete Seeger and the Almanac Singers to Billy Bragg, the Dropkick Murphys, and Natalie Merchant. Harlan is mentioned in the Aaron Watson song "Kentucky Coal Miner's Prayer".

It is mentioned in Robert Mitchum's recording "Ballad of Thunder Road" as a stop along a moonshine route. It is the subject of the Darrell Scott song "You'll Never Leave Harlan Alive", which has been covered by Brad Paisley, Dave Alvin, Kathy Mattea, and Patti Loveless, among others, and has been heard in several versions on the TV drama Justified.

Dierks Bentley's song "Down in the Mine", on his Up on the Ridge album, mentions Harlan. The band Spear of Destiny included the song "Harlan County", on their 1985 album World Service. Harlan County is mentioned in the Merle Travis song Nine Pound Hammer which he wrote in 1939; it has been covered by many bluegrass artists including Doc Watson.

Wayne Kemp wrote and recorded a song called "Harlan County." Harlan County is also the name of the first album by Jim Ford, 1969, as well as a song bearing the same name. The Dave Alvin song "Harlan County Line" takes place around the area of Harlan. Singer/Songwriter Loudon Wainwright III included a song titled "Harlan County" on his 2014 album I Haven't Got The Blues (Yet). Harlan County is mentioned as the setting of the David Allan Coe song "Daddy Was A God Fearin' Man" in his 1977 album Tattoo.

Steve Earle wrote and recorded "Harlan Man" included on the 1999 Grammy-nominated album " The Mountain" recorded with the Del McCoury Band.

The Cast Iron Filter song "Harlan County, USA" from the 2000 album "Further Down the Line" recounts a dramatization of the Eastover/Brookside coal miners' strike.

Adjacent Counties


  • Benham
  • Cumberland
  • Evarts
  • Harlan (County Seat)
  • Loyall
  • Lynch

Other Communities: Ages, Alva, Baxter, Bledsoe, Brookside, Cawood, Closplint, Coldiron, Cranks, Dayhoit, Elcomb, Fresh Meadows, Grays Knob, Gulston, Highsplint, Holmes Mill, Kenvir, Pathfork, Pine Mountain, Putney, Rosspoint, Smith, South Wallins, Tacky Town, Teetersville, Totz, Verda and Wallins Creek



KY GenWeb

Cumberland Gap (part)

Pine Mt. Settlement School

Harlan County History

Bloody Harlan Revisited