Morehead, Kentucky

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Morehead, Kentucky
Rowan County Arts Center in Morehead. (Formerly Rowan County Courthouse)
Rowan County Arts Center in Morehead. (Formerly Rowan County Courthouse)
Location of Morehead, Kentucky
Location of Morehead, Kentucky
Coordinates: 38°11′1″N 83°26′28″W / 38.18361°N 83.44111°W / 38.18361; -83.44111Coordinates: 38°11′1″N 83°26′28″W / 38.18361°N 83.44111°W / 38.18361; -83.44111
Country United States
State Kentucky
County Rowan
Incorporated 1869[1]
Named for Gov. James Morehead
 • Total 9.3 sq mi (24.0 km2)
 • Land 9.2 sq mi (23.9 km2)
 • Water 0.0 sq mi (0.1 km2)
Elevation 738 ft (225 m)
Population (2010)
 • Total 6,845
 • Density 640.8/sq mi (247.4/km2)
Time zone Eastern (EST) (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP code 40351
Area code(s) 606
FIPS code 21-53418
GNIS feature ID 0514051

Morehead is a home rule-class city[2] located along US 60 (the historic Midland Trail) and Interstate 64 in Rowan County, Kentucky, in the United States. It is the seat of its county.[3] The population was 6,845 at the time of the 2010 U.S. census.[4]

It was the focal point of the Rowan County War and is the home of Morehead State University.


Initial settlement[edit]

Morehead in 1890

The first settlers came to Rowan County from Virginia following the end of the American Revolutionary War in 1783. In 1854, Morehead became the third community to be settled in the county.[5] Colonel John Hargis founded the city after purchasing land in the area.[6] The city was named after James T Morehead, a politician who served as governor of Kentucky from 1834 to 1836.[7] Rowan County came into existence in May 1856, seceding from parts of Morgan County and Fleming County. It was divided into four districts with Morehead being declared the county seat.[8] The formation of Rowan County was a political ploy to prevent Flemingsburg from moving its seat to Poplar Plains, and Morehead was selected because of its centrality.[9] Although it was smaller and less developed than the neighboring town of Farmers, it remained a significant city in the county due its status as county seat.[6] It was officially incorporated in 1869.[9]

Rowan County War[edit]

Main article: Rowan County War
D.B. Logan's forces outside American Hotel

In the 1880s, Morehead became the central stage for a notorious conflict known as the Rowan County War or the Martin–Tolliver–Logan Feud. During a number of skirmishes for the next few years, at least 20 people were killed and possibly 100 were wounded. Beginning with an election-day barroom brawl, several gunfights took place in Morehead and the surrounding countryside. Eventually, a group led by Craig Tolliver seized political control of the town and installed allies in the county sheriff's and county attorney's offices as well as at the office of the town marshal. Several members of the opposing faction were arrested on trumped-up charges, and some were killed when the faction in power falsely claimed they had resisted arrest. The conflict gained national attention and on two occasions the governor sent troops to maintain order with little effect. Eventually a posse of as many as 100 individuals were organized and armed by Daniel Boone Logan with the tacit consent of Gov. J. Proctor Knott and Governor-elect Simon Buckner. In a dramatic two-hour gun battle through the center of Morehead, several Tollivers (including Craig) were killed and the Tollivers' control of the county was broken. Two men were later acquitted for the murder of Craig Tolliver.[10][11] Morehead State University was established as an indirect result of the feud. After the state militia came to settle the feud, the Disciples of Christ established a church and school which served as the forerunner to the university.[12]

20th century[edit]

The industry improved in the early 20th century. It was considered an important shipping center in the region, and the city of Chesapeake, Ohio even carried out developments on the road system of Morehead. Its abundance of lumber, fire clay, farm products and gas made it an active center of industry, of which was mainly oriented towards agriculture. The close proximity of the Licking River, the longest stream of its kind in the world, helped ensure the population would flourish.[13]

In July 1939, a number of business and hotels located on Mainstreet were caught in a raging fire following awry Independence Day celebrations. Only 24 hours afterwards, the town was badly effected by flash flooding.[14] At least 25 people died, and thousands had to receive vaccinations for Typhoid fever. The property costs incurred by the flooding were estimated at $1,000,000, while the damage inflicted on crops and farms caused an economic loss of about $500,000.[15]


As of 2000, Rowan County was the home of 25 Evangelical churches, four Mainline Protestant churches, one Catholic Church and one Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) congregation. This represents a net increase of five congregations. Six congregations (all Evangelical) were established between 1990 and 2000, while one (also an Evangelical congregation) closed.[16]

Rowan County is ranked 113th (of 120 counties in Kentucky) in overall rates of adherence, with only 249 out of every 1000 residents claimed as an adherent of a religious congregation. 129 of every 1000 residents was claimed by an Evangelical congregation (116th in rank), 50 by a Mainline congregation (91st in rank), 20 by the Catholic Church, and 37 by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. A small number of other residents belonged to religious groups not represented in one of these categories.[17]



According to the United States Census Bureau, Morehead has a total area of 9.3 square miles (24 km2), of which 9.2 square miles (24 km2) is land.

Morehead is in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains.[12] The topography of the area represents a mixture of the Highland Rim and the western border of the Eastern Kentucky Coalfield. The highest elevation in the county is Limestone Knob (1435 ft), situated approximately 3 miles southwest of Morehead. The elevation of the city is 748 ft.[18]


Climate data for Morehead, Kentucky
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 80
Average high °F (°C) 41
Average low °F (°C) 22
Record low °F (°C) −28
Precipitation inches (mm) 3.40
Source: The Weather Channel.[19]


Historical population
Census Pop.
1880 163
1890 401 146.0%
1900 1,100 174.3%
1910 1,105 0.5%
1920 981 −11.2%
1930 825 −15.9%
1940 1,901 130.4%
1950 3,102 63.2%
1960 4,170 34.4%
1970 7,191 72.4%
1980 7,789 8.3%
1990 8,357 7.3%
2000 5,914 −29.2%
2010 6,845 15.7%
Est. 2013 6,917 1.1%
U.S. Census Bureau[20]
2012 Estimate[21]

As of the census[22] of 2000, there were 5,914 people, 2,114 households, and 1,101 families residing in the city. The population density was 640.8 people per square mile (247.4/km²). There were 2,347 housing units at an average density of 254.3 per square mile (98.2/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 94.25% White, 2.57% African American, R0.15% Native American, 1.52% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.12% from other races, and 1.37% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.76% of the population.

There were 2,114 households out of which 23.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 38.2% were married couples living together, 11.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 47.9% were non-families. 36.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 13.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.14 and the average family size was 2.81.

In the city the population was spread out with 15.5% under the age of 18, 34.6% from 18 to 24, 20.6% from 25 to 44, 16.6% from 45 to 64, and 12.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 25 years. For every 100 females there were 88.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 87.6 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $24,014, and the median income for a family was $34,375. Males had a median income of $23,950 versus $19,455 for females. The per capita income for the city was $13,415. About 16.7% of families and 26.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 19.8% of those under age 18 and 15.6% of those age 65 or over.


In 1974, tourism was boosted by the impoundment of Cave Run Lake, the largest lake in Eastern Kentucky.[12][23]A council, called Morehead-Rowan County Economic Development Council, was formed in 1991 in order to attract more industry and capitalize on tourism to Cave Run Lake.[12]


Moonlight School founded in 1911 by Cora Stewart

There are currently 9 public primary schools operating in Morehead, including:[24]

  • Bluegrass Discovery Academy
  • McBrayer Elementary
  • Morehead Youth Development Center
  • Rodburn Elementary
  • Rowan County Middle School
  • Rowan County Preschool Center
  • Rowan County Senior High School
  • Sunrise Children's Services
  • Tilden Hogge Elementary School

Additionally, there are two institutions for higher education situated in the city. Morehead State University was established in 1887, and offers more than 100 degree programs.[25] There is also a campus for Maysville Community and Technical College in the city.[24]


  • The Morehead News[26] – Local newspaper.
  • W227AX 93.3 – K-LOVE.[27][28] Contemporary Christian radio (FM Translator).
  • WIVY 96.3 – TIMELESS FAVORITES. Local soft adult contemporary format radio station known as "IVY."
  • WMKY 90.3 – Morehead State Public Radio.[29] Local NPR flag station. The station includes news coverage, in addition to classical, jazz, blues, americana and bluegrass. Personalities include Carolyn Franzini, Michelle Wallace, Paul Hitchcock and Jesse Wells.
  • WMOR-FM 106.1
  • W10BM – Local television station, known for Buy a Dog, Sell a Hog.

Sister cities[edit]

Morehead has city partnerships with the following cities or regions:

Through Sister Cities International, Morehead has one sister city:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Commonwealth of Kentucky. Office of the Secretary of State. Land Office. "Morehead, Kentucky". Accessed 26 Aug 2013.
  2. ^ "Summary and Reference Guide to House Bill 331 City Classification Reform". Kentucky League of Cities. Retrieved December 30, 2014. 
  3. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  4. ^ United States Census. "[1]".
  5. ^ Thompson, George E. (2009). You Live Where?: Interesting and unusual facts about where we live. iUniverse. p. 236. ISBN 978-1440134210. 
  6. ^ a b Pearce, John Ed (2010). Days of Darkness: The Feuds of Eastern Kentucky. The University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 978-0813126579. 
  7. ^ Rennick, Robert (1988). Kentucky Place Names. The University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 978-0813101798. 
  8. ^ "Early history of Rowan County as taken from the records of the first established womens club here". The Rowan County News. 30 April 1936. Retrieved 26 February 2015. 
  9. ^ a b Blair, Juanita; Brown, Fred (2000). The Story of Two Kentucky Feuds. 
  10. ^ Kentucky Stuarts. "Feud In Rowan County"
  11. ^ McConkey, James. Rowan's Progress. Pantheon Books, 1992.
  12. ^ a b c d "OUR TOWNS; MOREHEAD; A TOWN SHAPED BY HILLS, HISTORY AND A SCHOOL". The Courier-Journal Louisville, KY. 3 February 1992. Retrieved 27 February 2015. 
  13. ^ "Home of colleges, churches and culture--is a flourishing little city of 1800 and the county seat of Rowan County--rapidly advancing in commerce and industry.". The Mt. Sterling advocate. 20 July 1910. Retrieved 27 February 2015. 
  14. ^ "Morehead remembers ‘Kentucky’s worst flash flood’ on 75th anniversary of deadly event". 26 June 2014. Retrieved 27 February 2015. 
  15. ^ "Morehead, KY (Other Areas), Flash Flooding, July 1939". Retrieved 27 February 2015. 
  16. ^ Religious Congregations and Membership (2000), conducted by Glennmary Research Center Retrieved on 2010-12-05
  17. ^ Association of Religion Data Archives Retrieved on 2010-12-05
  18. ^ "Groundwater resources of Rowan County, Kentucky". University of Kentucky. Retrieved 27 February 2015. 
  19. ^ "MONTHLY AVERAGES for Morehead, KY". The Weather Channel. Retrieved 2010-10-22. 
  20. ^ Census Bureau Retrieved on 2011-11-8
  21. ^ Annual Estimates of the Resident Population: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2013 Population Estimates U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 2014-05-23
  22. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  23. ^ "RV Campgrounds in Rowan County, Kentucky". Retrieved 27 February 2015. 
  24. ^ a b "Public schools in Morehead, KY". National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved 27 January 2015. 
  25. ^ "Academics". Retrieved 27 February 2015. 
  26. ^ The Morehead News
  27. ^ W227AX-FM 93.3 MHz
  28. ^ positive, encouraging K-LOVE
  29. ^ Morehead State Public Radio

External links[edit]