The History of Crittenden County
Crittenden County, located on the Ohio, Cumberland, and Tradewater Rivers in the Pennyroyal region of Kentucky, was created by the state legislature on April 1, 1842, from a portion of Livingston County. It became the state's 91st county, and was named for John J. Crittenden, a U.S. senator, attorney general, and governor of Kentucky. The first county seat was in Crooked Creek, but it was moved to Marion just two years later.
Crittenden County was once crossed by the Chickasaw Road, which was a part of the Old Saline Trace. This foot path was used by Native Americans when hunting game that crossed the Ohio River to the salt licks in Illinois. The first settler in the area was James Armstrong, who arrived from South Carolina in 1786 and built a log cabin. His family joined him five years later, along with other families that came to settle in the area. Early in the nineteenth century, Flynn's Ferry was established where the trail crossed the river.
Generally pro-Confederate during the American Civil War, the county saw little fighting, although both armies passed through it repeatedly. Several skimishes did place there, and the county courthouse was burned by Confederate Brigadier General Hylan B. Lyon during his raid across western Kentucky in December 1864. Lyon's men, all Kentuckians, burned a total of seven courthouses, since the Union Army was using them for barracks. The Confederates allowed the locals to remove the records before setting fire to the courthouses.
Crittenden County has valuable deposits of fluorspar, zinc, porcelain, coal, limestone, and sand for making glass. Marion was primarily an industrial town in the 1840s associated with the large fluorspar mining industry. This industry peaked in 1947 and has been in slow decline since. Iron production was also a prominent industry in the mid-19th century, with several furnaces being built in the county, one owned by Andrew Jackson. Other products produced in the county include lumber, glass, modular homes, and blue crystal that was made famous by Ball canning jars. Today the county has a strong agricultural economy. In 1992, 66 percent of the population lived on farms, with 45 percent of the population reporting farming as their primary occupation.
Learn more by reading Our Forgotten Passage Blog by Brenda Underdown.