Kentucky Counties
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Kentucky Counties

Kentucky has one hundred and twenty counties, third in the US behind Texas's (254) and Georgia's (159.) Washington County was the first county formed in the Commonwealth of Kentucky when it reached statehood, and the sixteenth county formed

Harlan County, Kentucky

Harlan County Education, Geography, and HistoryHarlan County, Kentucky Courthouse

Harlan County is a county located in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Based on the 2010 census, the population was 29,278. The county was created in 1819. The county seat is Harlan. Harlan county is named after Major Silas Harlan, a pioneer and Salt River settler who served with George Rogers Clark.

Etymology - Origin of Harlan County Name

Harlan county is named or Major Silas Harlan (1752-1782), pioneer and Salt River settler who served with George Rogers Clark.


County QuickFacts: CensusBureau Quick Facts

Harlan County History

Harlan County was formed in 1819 from a part of Knox County. It is named after Silas Harlan. A pioneer, he was born on March 17, 1753 in Berkeley County, West Virginia (when it was still part of Virginia), the son of George and Ann (Hunt) Harlan. Journeying to Kentucky as a young man with James Harrod in 1774, Harlan served as scout, hunter, and held the rank of Major in the Continental Army. Harlan assisted Harrod's party in Harrodsburg to deliver gunpowder to settlers in Kentucky, and to assist them against the British in the Revolutionary War.

With the help of his uncle Jacob and his brother James, Harlan built a log stockade near Danville known as "Harlan's Station". He served under George Rogers Clark in the Illinois campaign of 1778-79 against the British. He also commanded a company in John Bowman's raid on Old Chillicothe in 1779, and assisted Clark in establishing Fort Jefferson at the mouth of the Ohio River in 1780.

Silas Harlan died leading the advance party at the Battle of Blue Licks on August 19, 1782. At the time of his death, Harlan was engaged to Sarah Caldwell, who later married his brother James and was the grandmother of US Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan.

 It is located in the Eastern Coal Field region of the state. The elevation in the county ranges from 1070 to 4145 feet above sea level, the highest in the state. In 2000 the county population was 33,202 in a land area of 467.20 square miles, an average of 71.1 people per square mile. The county seat is Harlan.

With regard to the sale of alcohol, it is classified as a moist county- a county in which alcohol sales are prohibited (a dry county), but containing a "wet" city, in this case Cumberland, where package alcohol sales are allowed. In the city of Harlan, restaurants seating 100+ may serve alcoholic beverages.

Geography: Land and Water

As reported by the Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 468 square miles (1,210 km2), of which 466 square miles (1,210 km2) is land and 2.3 square miles (6.0 km2) (0.5%) is water.

Harlan county is located in east Kentucky. The headwaters of the Cumberland River are located in Harlan County. Poor Fork extends from the city of Harlan east past the city of Cumberland and into Letcher County. Clover Fork extends East from above Evarts, and Martins Fork extends through the city of Harlan west.

Black Mountain, located east of Lynch, is Kentucky's highest point, with an elevation of 4,145 feet (1,263 m) above sea level.

Neighboring Counties

Bordering counties are as follows:

  • North: Perry County
  • Northeast: Letcher County; Wise County, Va.
  • Southeast: Lee County, Va.
  • Southwest: Bell County
  • Northwest: Leslie County


Higher education

The county's only higher education institution is Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College (formerly known as Southeast Community College), a part of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System, which has its main campus in Cumberland.

K-12 public schools

The county has two K-12 public school districts.

Harlan County Public Schools
Harlan Independent Schools

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