Established in 1822, Morgan County was the 73rd in order of formation, coming from parent counties Bath and Floyd. Later, during the years 1843-1869, outlying sections of the original county were annexed to form six surrounding counties: Rowan, Elliott, Menifee, Wolfe, Magoffin and Johnson. The county was named for General Daniel Morgan, a veteran of the Revolutionary War. West Liberty is the county seat.
When Kentucky was still a county of Virginia, and much of the area wilderness, surveyors traveled via the Licking River to ascertain the area's settlement possibilities. Because of its fertile valleys, pioneers soon followed, drawn there by land teeming with game and virgin timber. The fertile valleys were good pasture land: Morgan County soon became called "the Bluegrass County of the Mountains." Cattle, burley tobacco, and lumber mills would become the area's main industries.
It is thought that the first log cabin built in West Liberty, was that built by Baptist preacher Daniel Williams. Williams, an uncle of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, had come to Kentucky from North Carolina with Daniel Boone in 1775. He was married at Boonesborough by Daniel Boone's brother Squire Boone, and later established a church near Mt. Sterling. It was the first of many throughout the mountains. Approximately 60% of Morgan County's population can be traced back the to Williams family.
During the Civil War, most families claimed allegiance with the Union, although many were Southern sympathizers. Confederate leaders from Morgan County include Captain John T. Williams and Major William Mynheir. Besides one minor skirmish at McClanahan Hill, most fighting occurred at West Liberty. The earliest, in 1861, was one of the first important battles that occurred in eastern Kentucky.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Why is the county seat called West Liberty, when it is actually located some hundred miles east of Liberty?
A: When Morgan County's Wells Mill settlement was to be officially established as the county seat, Pike County was in the process of creating its own county seat, rumored to be called "Liberty." To honor their eastern neighbor, Morgan County officials chose to rename Wells Mill to "West Liberty."
In 1881, Pike County decided to retain the name "Pikeville" for its county seat, in honor of the western explorer and U.S. Army officer Zebulon Montgomery Pike, thereby leaving "West Liberty" with no eastern namesake.
Q: When and where are Morgan County Fiscal Court meetings held?
A: They are held on the 2nd Wednesday of each month at 5:30pm in the meeting room at the county office building.
Q: When and where are West Liberty City Council meetings held?
A: They are held on the 4th Monday of each month at 5:00pm at City Hall on Main Street.
Q: When is the Morgan County Sorghum Festival held?
A: The Sorghum Festival is always the last full weekend in September. It runs Friday through Sunday.