A Question of Counties

by Russell L. Whitlock

Reprinted from the Summer, 2001 Association Newsletter

Ever so often the question arises, “Exactly where did Jenny Wiley settle when she and Thomas moved their family from Walkers Creek, Virginia to Kentucky.” This thorny issue surfaced again this past Sunday at our July meeting when Mr. Edward Hazlett gave a short talk concerning his desire to relocate the JENNY WILEY ASSOCIATION from Prestonsburg in Floyd County to Paintsville in Johnson County. Mr. Hazlette no doubt mis-spoke when he suggested that Jenny Wiley never knew Floyd County and that she settled in Johnson County and always lived in Johnson County. Ed is one of the most informed people I know concerning the history of eastern Kentucky and I’m sure that he realizes the error in that suggestion. I expect that he simply got the county names reversed. He is certainly correct in saying that the location of the Wiley land grant was in what is NOW Johnson County Kentucky, however, that has not always been the case and was not so in 1801 when the Wiley family settled near to the location of Present day Paintsville. Perhaps the following information will serve to shed some light on this subject and may be helpful to our members in distant locals. Hopefully, it will put the question to rest once and for all.

The entire land area which is now known as Kentucky was once a portion of Fincastle County Virginia.. It is not now generally known that the particular area became later known as Kentucky County Virginia and in 1776 became the present day state of Kentucky -- which was the 15 th. independent state to be added to the Union. The state of Kentucky had been in existence for approximately 13 years when Jenny Wiley was brought here from Walkers Creek, VA by her Indian captors.

Floyd County was created in 1799 from portions of Mason, Fleming and Montgomery Counties and was the 40 th. Kentucky county to be formed. The county was named for Colonel John Floyd. The entire county of Pike was created from Floyd county, as well as portions of Clay, Harlan, Perry, Lawrence, Morgan, Breathitt, Letcher, JOHNSON. Rowan, Boyd, Magoffin, Wolfe, Elliot and Lee Counties. Johnson County was created in 1843, approximately 44 years following establishment of the state of Kentucky and was taken from portions of Floyd, Lawrence and Morgan Counties. Johnson County was named for Colonel Richard M. Johnson, Vice President of the United States under President Martin Van Buren (1837-1841). Lawrence County was created in 1821 from portions of Floyd and Greenup counties and Morgan County was created in 1822 from portions of Floyd and Bath counties. Greenup County was created in 1803 from Mason County, Mason County was created in 1788 from Bourbon County, Bourbon County was created in 1785 from Fayette County and Fayette County was created in 1780 from Kentucky county Virginia. Bath County was created in 1811 from Montgomery County, Montgomery County was created in 1796 from Clark County and Clark County was created from Fayette and Bourbon counties.

The above facts provide a pretty concise lineage of both Floyd and Johnson counties and also provide pretty convincing proof of just where the Wiley family settled in Kentucky. It is generally agreed that Jenny and Thomas brought their families to Kentucky in approximately 1801. Records show that my ancestor William Wiley was born ca 1801 in Kentucky, so the family probably arrived on their land near present day River, Kentucky prior to that date.

Taking into consideration all the information shown in the preceding paragraphs, it becomes obvious that the Wiley family initially settled in Floyd County Kentucky and that both Jenny and Thomas lived their entire lives in Floyd County. It is an undisputable fact that Jenny Wiley did not live until the establishment of Johnson County in 1843, having died ca 1831, some 12 years prior to its creation. Thomas Wiley died ca 1810. So the truth then is that neither Jenny nor Thomas Wiley ever knew Johnson County and both spent the balance of their lives in Kentucky, most likely, on their farm in Floyd County!

The above information on Kentucky Counties is taken from the following publications:

A BRIEF HISTORY OF KENTUCKY by Lloyd G. Lee, pages 574, 575, 576, 577, 578 and

KENTUCKY’ LAST FRONTIER by Henry Preston Scalf, pages 194 and 195.

The above not withstanding, Mr. Hazelett provides some very good reasons for his desire to relocate the JENNY WILEY ASSOCIATION to Johnson County. Among these is the fact that the Paintsville Apple Festival is the largest “Get together” in Kentucky other than the world-renowned Kentucky Derby. Another reason is the fact that it places us in closer proximity to Jenny Wiley Caves, which are only a couple of miles from Paintsville on Little Mud Lick Creek. Ed’s thought that our presence at the Apple Festival would give us much needed exposure is well taken. On Balance though, there are several facts which go against a move to Johnson County, the most important being that the majority of Association members seem to prefer the Prestonsburg location. In addition, the traffic and parking problem in Paintsville during the Apple Festival is horrendous, as I can attest from having shown antique cars at the Apple Festival for some 15 or so years. Then too, we are already well established at the Prestonsburg Public Library, most of our members know where we are and how to get there and at this point we do not have any facilities available in Paintsville. While preferring to retain the Prestonsburg location, President Jim Daniels voiced his strong support for the idea of placing a JENNY WILEY ASSOCIATION entry in the Apple Festival parade. I heartily concur with that idea as I feel it would provide us with very good exposure to an Apple Day crowd of some 40,000 people. Personally speaking, I have absolutely no preference as to where we are located and either town is satisfactory to me. Having said that I must say this, I do understand why most members are reluctant to pull up stakes and leave an already established location where we have been situated for 5 years and, in effect at least, start over again from scratch.

The idea of moving the JENNY WILEY ASSOCIATION to Paintsville was placed before the membership about one year ago and did not obtain approval. As I recall, Jim suggested at our last meeting that the proposition be tabled until the annual meeting in October (or possibly later, the exact time frame escapes my memory at the moment and I took no notes.)

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