THE FORMATION AND BOUNDARY CHANGES OF OHIO COUNTY
This posting is an attempt to educate the readers of this blog regarding the creation and formation of Ohio County and how its boundaries changed from its original size and shape by reason of political changes in the 1800’s. This is important to genealogical research because some of your Ohio County ancestors might have lived in Ohio County at a certain time and, without moving, found themselves living in another county. Therefore, you would have to conduct your research in two different counties to find all available information. The changes to the borders of Ohio County were most likely prompted by the citizens who actually lived in those areas; perhaps they were driven by having a better road to a neighboring county seat; or perhaps these changes were more political in nature and were driven by politicians instead of citizens. I have not researched the causes of these changes, but we have to assume it was done for practical or political reasons. You can imagine as settlements were made farther and farther away from the courthouse, it was a great inconvenience for a man to travel a long distance by horseback or wagon to transact his legal business. This hardship caused a demand for the creation of new counties and courthouses, and happened frequently in the early history of Kentucky, all over the state, and as late as 1939.
To understand these boundaries and changes to Ohio County we should start with the beginning. Kentucky was originally part of Virginia and was called Kentucky County. This is a map showing Kentucky County, Virginia in 1776.
In 1780, as shown in the following map, Kentucky County, Virginia was divided into three counties. Jefferson County, Virginia included the land that eventually became Ohio County, Kentucky.
In 1784 Nelson County, Virginia was derived from part of Jefferson County, Virginia, to be legally effective the following year, as shown in the following map. This includes the area that later became Ohio County.
In 1792 Kentucky was separated from Virginia and became a state. As this was done the new Kentucky legislature started the further division of the large counties and Hardin County was derived from Nelson County, legally effective the following year. Hardin County includes the area that later became Ohio County. See the map below.
Next, in 1798, the Kentucky legislature officially created Ohio County, taken from Hardin County, as shown in the map below. This was legally effective the following year. Note that Ohio County was much larger then than it is now. Note that Muhlenberg County was created at the same time.
In 1809 Henderson County was enlarged by taking a small portion of the eastern part of Ohio County. See map below.
In 1810 Grayson County was formed from parts of Ohio County and Hardin County, as shown in the map below.
In 1815 Daviess County was formed from part of Ohio County, as shown in the map below.
In 1829 Hancock County was formed from parts of Ohio County, Daviess County, and Breckenridge County, as shown below.
In 1830 Daviess County grew larger by taking a small part of Ohio County (too small of an area to show on this map).
In 1831 Breckenridge County grew larger by taking a small part of Ohio County (too small of an area to show on this map).
In 1854 McLean County was formed from parts of Ohio County, Daviess County, and Muhlenberg County, as shown below.
In 1871 Butler County grew by taking a small part of Ohio County (too small of an area to show on this map). This represents the final change to Ohio County’s borders.
When researching your ancestors I suggest you try to pinpoint exactly where they lived. Of course the census gives us some information regarding location, but additional information can be gleaned from deeds and tax maps. Both deeds and tax maps can be found at the Ohio County Courthouse and I have found both offices very helpful; however, it is not something you can do by phone. By combining information from successive deeds from owner to owner and tax maps you can trace ownership to the present time and get accurate knowledge of where someone lived, boundaries of farms, etc. I was able to buy a copy of a tax map that clearly showed the boundaries of my g-grandfather’s farm and get the name of the current owner so that I could get permission to walk across that property. This type of research is not particularly easy, but well worth the effort. Further, there are maps that will aid you. Many different kinds of maps may be found at local, State, or regional libraries, museums, or historical archives. Most local librarians can also help you gain access to local maps. On this page at the upper right you will find a link to nine older maps of Ohio County that I think are interesting (shown as Maps of Ohio County).
You can also look for maps at these sites:
http://www.usgs.gov/ These are topographic maps, with great detail. It is the sort of map that you would want to use to plot your ancestor’s farm, for example.
http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/gmdhtml/gmdhome.html This is the Library of Congress web site for maps. While writing this I found a 1915 map of Fordsville on this site. It is in two images. If you go to this site (see below) you can click on the map image and then zoom in at various locations by clicking one of the “Zoom In” buttons and then clicking on the map – it will zoom on the place where you click the map. If you do this you can read the names written on the various buildings and see the other detailed information. These maps were created for fire insurance purposes (they are called Sanborn Maps) and they are wonderful for genealogists. Here is the web site for the two Fordsville maps: http://www.loc.gov/rr/geogmap/sanborn/city.php?CITY=Fordsville&stateID=19
The symbols used on the Sanborn Maps are described here: http://www.loc.gov/rr/geogmap/sanborn/images/sankey22c.jpg
If you are lucky enough to live in or near Louisville you can visit The Filson Historical Society, where you might find a map (or other information) to help you. John Filson created the first map of Kentucky and this organization was founded in 1884. It has a wonderful library and research center. http://filsonhistorical.org/
Another source for maps is found here: http://www.davidrumsey.com/ This site is extraordinary.
You probably know about Google maps. If not, you need to find it and add it as a favorite site. Look here: https://maps.google.com/ Not only is it helpful for research, it is great for vacation planning, etc. But you might not know about Google Earth. This is different from Google Maps and you have to download the software (free). This was a big help to me when I was planning trips to cemeteries in Ohio County and for finding a family cemetery on my g-grandfather’s farm. When you download Google Earth it will place an icon on your computer, so when you want to use it you just click the icon. Here is the web site for downloading Google Earth: http://www.google.com/earth/index.html
The most current Ohio County road map can be found at this site: http://ukcc.uky.edu/maps/ghm1999/ohio.gif
I’m told that the Ohio County Historical Society has a framed map in their museum that is dated 1886 and that this map shows the names of the owners of the farms throughout the county. You can purchase a copy of that map for $15.00. Contact the Ohio County Historical Society at P.O. Box 44, Hartford, KY, 42347 – phone 270-232-0086. The museum is located at 415 Mulberry Street, Hartford, KY.
And the last source for helpful maps is found on the US Gen Archives web site: http://usgwarchives.net/maps/kentucky/
Good luck with your research.