Owen county is located in north-central Kentucky and its county seat and largest town is Owenton which is an attractive residential and shopping center. Owenton served by US highways 127 and 227, KY highway 22 and smaller rural roads, is pinpointed about 70 miles equal distance from Louisville, Lexington and Cincinnati.
Named For Hero
The 62nd county to be formed, Owen was established by an act of the legislature in 1819 from the counties of Gallatin, Pendleton, Franklin and Scott. The original boundaries have been changed. Owen County and Owenton were named for Col. Abraham Owen whose family settled in Shelby County. Col. Owen served as representative in the legislature and a delegate to the second state constitutional convention in 1799. Better known for his military prowess, he became an expert in Indian fighting and it was in the battle against Indians at Tippecanoe (Indiana) that he was killed on Nov. 7 1811.
McAfees Were First
Explorers, hunters, surveyors, Indian captives and war parties were in what is now Owen county in the early days but the first white men known to have set foot in the area was the McAfee party in 1773. Approximate time of its early exploration or settlement is indicated by the establishment of communities and forts in nearby counties from 1776 to 1762. One of the earliest known settlements was near the present site of Lusby's Mill on upper Eagle creek. In 1795, Samuel Cobb and other settled there. The first church organized in the county was in 1801 near what is now New Liberty and was called the "Church of the Twins." In 1864, the county had fourteen Baptist, one Presbyterian, six Methodist and five Christian churches. The first county seat was established in 1819 at Hesslerville (now Hesler) and the first court was held in the home of Jacob Hesler. The geographical center of the county where Owenton is now, was made the county seat in 1822.
Some of the communities existing by 1819-20 were New Liberty, Monterey, Hesler, Long Ridge and Lusby's Mill. Most of the early settlements sprang up at springs or along side streams where mills were erected, a necessary part of early pioneer life. In 1870, Owenton had two churches, one bank, three hotels, eight stores, twelve mechanics shops, one large loose-leaf tobacco drying house, eight lawyers and three doctors.
The great Civil War in the 1860's left its mark on Owen county although there were no organized battles fought here. Owen county was strongly Confederate in its leanings and there were two Confederate recruiting camps, one known as Gen. Humphrey Marshall's camp located near Lusby's Mill and Vallandingham's barn about a mile east of Owenton. Armed guerillas roved the county and life and property was unsafe. The infamous "Mose Webster" is said to have operated in the county.
The first bank in the county was the Deposit Bank at New Liberty, chartered in 1861. The first newspaper was the Owen News, and was also founded in New Liberty seven years later. Owen county does not have a single mile of railroad track but strenuous efforts were made on several occasions in the late 1800's to establish one. Owenton's first theater was opened in 1912 and electricity arrived in 1913. New people, practices and events are replacing the old in Owen county but it continues to be know far and wide as "Old Sweet Owen."