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Whitley County, Kentucky facts for kids

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Whitley County
Whitley County courthouse in Williamsburg
Whitley County courthouse in Williamsburg
Official seal of Whitley County
Map of Kentucky highlighting Whitley 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 January 17, 1818
Named for William Whitley
Seat Williamsburg
Largest city Corbin
 • Total 445 sq mi (1,150 km2)
 • Land 438 sq mi (1,130 km2)
 • Water 7.3 sq mi (19 km2)  1.6%
 • Total 36,712 Increase
Time zone UTC−5 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−4 (EDT)
Congressional district 5th

Whitley County is a county located in the southeastern part of the U.S. state of Kentucky. The county seat is at Williamsburg, though the largest city is Corbin, and the county's District Court (a trial court of limited jurisdiction) sits in both cities. Whitley County is included in the London, KY Micropolitan Statistical Area.


Whitley County was created on January 17, 1818 from adjacent Knox County, Kentucky. In the years prior to its establishment as an independent county, many skirmishes were fought between native Indians and hunters and trappers in the area. The namesake of the county, Colonel William Whitley, is famous locally for fighting many of these battles within the area, safeguarding the Wilderness Road, as well as for his service in the War of 1812, where he was killed at the Battle of the Thames. The county seat, Williamsburg, is also named for Colonel Whitley, with the first court held at the home of the town's earliest resident, Samuel Cox.

Its rugged terrain, densely forested woodlands, and a history of conflict with local Indian tribes all combined to make for a very slow rate of growth in Whitley County. The development of the coal mining industry in the area towards the late 1800s spurred on population growth as poor families from neighboring states rushed into the county and led to the formation of Corbin, still the largest city in Whitley County.

North Corbin, just north of Whitley County is home to Sanders Cafe, which is the birthplace of Kentucky Fried Chicken. It was founded there by Harland David Sanders, better known as Colonel Sanders, in 1930.


Cumberland Falls, Whitley County, Kentucky
Cumberland Falls

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 445 square miles (1,150 km2), of which 438 square miles (1,130 km2) is land and 7.3 square miles (19 km2) (1.6%) is water.

Whitley County is located within the Cumberland Plateau of southeastern Kentucky, which is greatly overlapped by the broad Eastern Coal Field region of the state. Because of its location in the midst of Cumberland Mountains, elevations in the county range from 723 feet (220 m) to 2,220 feet (680 m) above sea level. 38,000 acres (150 km2) of western Whitley County are preserved within the Daniel Boone National Forest. Cumberland Falls, located in Cumberland Falls State Resort Park, is the site of the largest waterfall in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Both Daniel Boone Forest and Cumberland Falls State Park are operated by the Kentucky State Parks system, also located in the county. Two regionally significant waterways meander through the county, namely the Laurel and Cumberland river.

Geographic features

Adjacent counties

National protected area


Major highways

  • Interstate 75
  • U.S. Route 25W
  • Kentucky Route 11
  • Kentucky Route 26
  • Kentucky Route 90
  • Kentucky Route 92
  • Kentucky Route 312
  • Kentucky Route 904


  • KBYL, Williamsburg-Whitley County Airport


Historical population
Census Pop.
1820 2,340
1830 3,806 62.6%
1840 4,673 22.8%
1850 7,447 59.4%
1860 7,762 4.2%
1870 8,278 6.6%
1880 12,000 45.0%
1890 17,590 46.6%
1900 25,015 42.2%
1910 31,982 27.9%
1920 27,749 −13.2%
1930 29,730 7.1%
1940 33,186 11.6%
1950 31,940 −3.8%
1960 25,815 −19.2%
1970 24,145 −6.5%
1980 33,396 38.3%
1990 33,326 −0.2%
2000 35,865 7.6%
2010 35,637 −0.6%
2020 36,712 3.0%
2021 (est.) 36,939 3.7%
U.S. Decennial Census
1790–1960 1900–1990
1990–2000 2010–2021 2019

As of the census of 2000, there were 35,865 people, 13,780 households, and 9,894 families residing in the county. The population density was 82 per square mile (32/km2). There were 15,288 housing units at an average density of 35 per square mile (14/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 98.37% White, 0.34% Black or African American, 0.23% Native American, 0.20% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 0.09% from other races, and 0.76% from two or more races. 0.69% of the population were Hispanics or Latinos of any race.

There were 13,780 households, out of which 33.70% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 54.90% were married couples living together, 13.00% had a female householder with no husband present, and 28.20% were non-families. 25.20% of all households were made up of individuals, and 10.20% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.52 and the average family size was 3.01.

The age distribution was 25.80% under 18, 10.80% from 18 to 24, 27.30% from 25 to 44, 23.20% from 45 to 64, and 12.90% who were 65 or older. The median age was 35 years. For every 100 females, there were 93.30 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 89.60 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $22,075, and the median income for a family was $27,871. Males had a median income of $26,518 versus $17,001 for females. The per capita income for the county was $12,777. About 21.60% of families and 26.40% of the population were below the poverty line, including 34.10% of those under age 18 and 19.00% of those age 65 or over.



Census-designated places

Unincorporated communities


Whitley County's economy has always relied heavily on its natural resources, particularly coal and timber from the area's heavily forested, mountainous terrain. Due to the rough territory created by the Cumberland Mountains, agriculture in the county has historically been less significant, although tobacco and corn are grown in some areas.



Three public school districts serve the county:

  • Whitley County School District
    • The largest of the three districts, it serves the county outside of the cities of Corbin and Williamsburg.
  • Williamsburg Independent School District
    • Serves the city of Williamsburg with a single K-12 school.
  • Corbin Independent School District
    • Serves the entire city of Corbin, making it one of the few districts in Kentucky whose boundaries cross county lines.

Colleges and universities

The University of the Cumberlands (formerly known as Cumberland College), located in Williamsburg, is the largest private university in Kentucky, and the only university with its main campus in Whitley County. The school's sports teams play on the NAIA level and provide college level sporting events for the local community.

In addition, Eastern Kentucky University maintains a branch campus in the Whitley County portion of Corbin just outside Woodbine.

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Condado de Whitley (Kentucky) para niños

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