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Johnson County, Kentucky

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  • Genoa “Nola” (Collins) (1878 - 1962)
    Genoa Collins Hampton Ratliff was the daughter of an unknown biological father and Clarinda Collins Hampton. She was the stepdaughter of Jesse Hampton.
  • Clarinda (Ratliff) Music (1898 - 1982)
    Clarinda Ratliff Music was born on January 15, 1898 in Johnson County, Kentucky. She was the daughter of Harvey Ratliff and Genoa “Nola” Collins Hampton. She was the paternal granddaughter of James Rat...
  • Alexander Webb (1877 - 1951)
    Alexander Webb was the son of William Webb, Junior and Isabelle Music. (Other websites may have James and Frances Hyden Webb listed but this is not accurate.) Date of birth was possibly May of 1878. H...
  • Isabelle Musick (c.1836 - 1922)
  • William (Ance) Anderson Sesco/Cesco (1870 - 1959)
    William was a second cousin once removed of Loretta Lynn and Crystal Gayle.Associated names (Oscar/Osker Fitzallen Sesco/Cisco/Francisco)

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

Official Website


Johnson County was formed on February 24, 1843 by the Kentucky General Assembly. At that time, its county seat of Paintsville had already been a chartered city for nine years. Homes had been built in Paintsville as early as the 1810s.

Many of the families at the beginning of Johnson County's formation were of Scottish, Irish, English, or German descent. Also, a fact lost to most historians is the large population of French Huguenots who were confused as English because they fled via England en route to the United States. Many of these settlers migrated from North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Virginia following their participation in the Revolutionary War.

As Johnson County and its county seat had begun to thrive, in 1860 the Civil War became a disrupter. Like other border areas, brothers fought against brothers, tearing families apart. Johnson County was not only part of a border state during the Civil War, but it was a border county as well.

Sometime between 1860 and 1862, the county enacted an ordinance that neither the Union or Confederate flags were to be flown within the county. This was repealed quickly after Colonel James Garfield's Union brigade marched through Paintsville on its way to defeat the Confederate cavalry at the Battle of Middle Creek in Floyd County.

John C.C. Mayo

Following the Civil War, Thomas Jefferson Mayo moved to Paintsville to fulfill a role as a gifted and talented teacher. He fathered John C. C. Mayo, an important figure in the development of eastern Kentucky. The county citizenry is divided on their loyalty to his memory. Some would say he was a benefactor who assisted in the development of Paintsville, and as a result, Johnson County. That he helped develop banks, churches, streets, public utilities and railroad transportation. Others would say he was directly responsible for the huge influence coal companies had over the county's vast coal resources and the reason the region remains so economically depressed to this day.

Coal was important for Johnson County and the rest of eastern Kentucky even before the Civil War, but its development halted at the start of the war. Financing was slow to return to the coal industry in eastern Kentucky and this inhibited development in Johnson County. The people were suspicious of outsiders and Mayo, a school teacher, was a known quantity and one of their own. So he was invaluable in helping the coal industry to gain a firm foothold in the coal fields of eastern Kentucky and to the industrialized north which spurred the development of railroads in the area. Carpetbaggers from the North became a common sight in the area. It was during this time that many of the citizens of Johnson County were given misleading information and sold all mineral rights to their property for pennies on the dollar of what the rights were worth. In some cases, for a new shotgun. It was also during this time that many people lost their property due to a strange rash of fires in several county seats, destroying deeds and records of ownership, which paved the way for land-grabbers to take what the owners did not want to relinquish.

The Chesapeake and Ohio Railway first opened its Paintsville depot on September 1, 1904, following 25 years of work connecting it to Lawrence County. The rails were paid for by donations, stocks and bonds, and the hard work of local citizens. History shows that the rail companies leaked information and frequently changed planned routes to create bidding wars and to finance the rails. Following the development of the railroad, tens of thousands of tons of coal were being transported out of eastern Kentucky by 1910.

Mayo went on to be a political lobbyist, and eastern Kentucky's only member of the Democratic National Committee. He had influence in electing Kentucky's governors, members of Congress and the election of President Woodrow Wilson.

He died on May 11, 1914, after becoming ill following a trip to Europe. During his life, he built a historic mansion in Paintsville which has become known as Mayo Mansion.

Adjacent Counties

Cities & Communities

Asa | Boonscamp | Chandlerville | Collista | Denver | Dobson | East Point | Elna | Flat Gap | Fuget | Hager Hill | Hargis | Keaton | Kerz | Leander | Low Gap | Manila | Meally | Nero | Nippa | Odds | Offutt | Oil Springs | Paintsville (County Seat) | Redbush | River | Riceville | Sip | Sitka | Staffordsville | Stambaugh | Swamp Branch | Thealka | Thelma | Tutor Key | Van Lear | Volga | West Van Lear | Whitehouse | Williamsport | Winifred | Wittensville




Nat'l Reg. of Hist. Places

Genealogy Trails

Johnson County History