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Boyd County
The Boyd County Courthouse in Catlettsburg, with a statue of John Milton Elliott
The Boyd County Courthouse in Catlettsburg, with a statue of John Milton Elliott
Unity and Progress
Map of Kentucky highlighting Boyd County
Location within the U.S. state of Kentucky
Map of the United States highlighting Kentucky
Kentucky's location within the U.S.
Country  United States
State  Kentucky
Founded 1860
Named for Linn Boyd
Seat Catlettsburg
Largest city Ashland
 • Total 162 sq mi (420 km2)
 • Land 160 sq mi (400 km2)
 • Water 2.2 sq mi (6 km2)  1.3%%
 • Total 48,261 Decrease
 • Density 310/sq mi (120/km2)
Time zone UTC−5 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−4 (EDT)
Congressional districts 4th, 5th

Boyd County is a county located in the U.S. state of Kentucky. The county seat is Catlettsburg, and its largest city is Ashland. The county was formed in 1860. Its 160 square miles (410 km2) are found at the northeastern edge of the state near the Ohio River and Big Sandy River, nestled in the verdant rolling hills of Appalachia. Boyd County is in the Huntington-Ashland, WV-KY-OH Metropolitan Statistical Area.


Boyd County was the 107th of 120 counties formed in the state of Kentucky and was established in 1860 from parts of surrounding Greenup, Carter, and Lawrence counties. It was named for Linn Boyd of Paducah, former U.S. congressman, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, who died in 1859 soon after being elected lieutenant governor of Kentucky.

The earliest evidence of human habitation in Boyd County exists in the forms of numerous earthen mounds containing human skeletons and burial goods giving evidence that prehistoric Native Americans inhabited the area. A 1973 archeological find revealed a serpent-shaped mound built of rocks dating to 2000 BC and stretching for 900 feet (270 m) along a ridge parallel to the Big Sandy River south of Catlettsburg.

One of the early settlers in what is now Boyd County was Charles ("One-handed Charley") Smith, from Virginia. A veteran of the French and Indian War who had served under Col. George Washington in 1754, Smith received for that service roughly 400 acres (1.6 km2) around Chadwicks Creek, where he built a cabin in 1774. Smith died in 1776 and in 1797 this land passed to Alexander Catlett for whom the town of Catlettsburg is named.

The Poage family arrived from Staunton, Virginia, in October 1799 and formed Poage's Landing, later renamed the city of Ashland.

The first courthouse built in 1861 was replaced in 1912.


Members of the Poage family built the steam-powered Clinton iron furnace in 1832, the earliest industry in present-day Boyd County. A total of twenty-nine charcoal-fueled iron furnaces operated on the Kentucky side of the Ohio River, seven of them in present-day Boyd County.

The Kentucky Iron, Coal and Manufacturing Company was incorporated on March 8, 1854, and it laid out the town of Ashland, then within Greenup County. The company purchased thousands of acres of coal, timber, and ore lands throughout the county. It invested US$210,000 in bonds of the Lexington & Big Sandy River Railroad Company, with the stipulation that the eastern division of that line extend into Ashland instead of ending, as originally planned, in Catlettsburg. The early presence of the railroad in Ashland was largely responsible for this city becoming the dominant municipality of the county.

Ashland furnace was sold to American Rolling Mill Company in 1921, which developed into Armco Steel Corporation. In 1963 Armco constructed the Amanda furnace, one of the largest blast furnaces in the world. Known today as AK Steel, the industry remains a major employer in northeastern Kentucky.

Ashland Oil, Inc., at one time the largest corporation headquartered in Kentucky, was started in 1924 at Leach Station, south of Catlettsburg, by Paul G. Blazer. Best known for their Valvoline Oil products, Ashland Oil relocated to Covington, Kentucky in 1999, merged with Marathon Oil, and sold its remaining petroleum shares to Marathon in 2005, dissolving their petroleum division. The original oil refinery, located in Catlettsburg, is still in operation today and is currently owned by Marathon Oil.

Calgon Carbon constructed the Big Sandy Plant in 1961 and it has since became the world's largest producer of granular activated carbon. The facility produces in excess of 100 million pounds of granular activated carbon annually.

Alcohol sales

Since 2007, Boyd County allows, with a permit, alcohol sales in restaurants that seat over 100 people and derive at least 70% of their income from food sales. The one exception is the city of Ashland, where all retail alcohol sales are allowed with a permit. This makes the county officially a limited county with a wet city. Prior to 2007, alcohol sale in all areas of Boyd County, with the exception of Ashland, was prohibited.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 162 square miles (420 km2), of which 160 square miles (410 km2) is land and 2.2 square miles (5.7 km2) (1.3%) is water.

Adjacent counties


Historical population
Census Pop.
1870 8,573
1880 12,165 41.9%
1890 14,033 15.4%
1900 18,834 34.2%
1910 23,444 24.5%
1920 29,281 24.9%
1930 43,849 49.8%
1940 45,938 4.8%
1950 49,949 8.7%
1960 52,163 4.4%
1970 52,376 0.4%
1980 55,513 6.0%
1990 51,150 −7.9%
2000 49,752 −2.7%
2010 49,542 −0.4%
2020 48,261 −2.6%
2021 (est.) 47,899 −3.3%
U.S. Decennial Census
1790-1960 1900-1990
1990-2000 2010-2021

As of the census of 2000, there were 49,752 people, 20,010 households, and 14,107 families residing in the county. The population density was 311 per square mile (120/km2). There were 21,976 housing units at an average density of 137 per square mile (53/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 95.97% White, 2.55% Black or African American, 0.16% Native American, 0.30% Asian, 0.14% from other races, and 0.88% from two or more races. 1.12% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 20,010 households, out of which 28.90% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 55.70% were married couples living together, 11.60% had a female householder with no husband present, and 29.50% were non-families. 26.50% of all households were made up of individuals, and 12.20% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.38 and the average family size was 2.86.

The age distribution was 21.80% under the age of 18, 8.30% from 18 to 24, 28.70% from 25 to 44, 25.60% from 45 to 64, and 15.60% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females there were 96.00 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 93.10 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $32,749, and the median income for a family was $41,125. Males had a median income of $35,728 versus $22,591 for females. The per capita income for the county was $18,212. About 11.50% of families and 15.50% of the population were below the poverty line, including 22.40% of those under age 18 and 12.10% of those age 65 or over.



Census-designated places

Unincorporated communities



Ashland Community and Technical College, in Ashland, is one of 16 two-year, open-admissions colleges of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System. Morehead State University also has a satellite campus located in Ashland.

Public school districts

  • Boyd County Public School District serves the city of Catlettsburg and the surrounding county communities outside the city of Ashland and Westwood CDP
  • Ashland Independent School District serving the city of Ashland.
  • Fairview Independent School District serving the census-designated place of Westwood .

Private schools

Other schools


Federal Correctional Institution, Ashland

The Federal Bureau of Prisons operates the Federal Correctional Institution, Ashland in Summit, unincorporated Boyd County, 5 miles (8.0 km) southwest of Ashland.

Kentucky State Police Post 14 is located on U.S. 60 in Summit, next to Armco Park. In addition to Boyd County, troopers from Post 14 serve Carter, Greenup and Lawrence Counties.

See also

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