Located in the Pennyrile Region of western Kentucky, Crittenden County covers a land area of 365 square miles and has a population of approximately 9,200. The Tradewater River flows along the northeastern border, while the northwestern boundary is formed by the Ohio River.
James Armstrong, a native of South Carolina, was the first actual settler known to have broken virgin soil in what is now known as Crittenden County. He came from South Carolina to Russellville in 1785, at which time Logan County included all of western Kentucky. (It was so large an area that eventually eight counties were formed from it.) Russellville was the county seat and the most western settlement in Kentucky at that date. When Armstrong arrived, all the best land was entered, and he resolved to travel westward until a choice piece of land was found. He set out alone, and traveled northwestward until he reached the beautiful Fredonia valley. He was charmed with this fertile region and laid patent on a large body of land, including the present site of Fredonia.
He built a crude log hut - the first house erected in Crittenden County - on Livingston Creek, a few hundred yards below the Centerville Ford. The house was 12 feet square and had no door - a window in the gable serving the purpose of an entrance which was reached by a ladder.
The first county court was held at the house of Samuel Ashley on April 4, 1842. The following justices of the peace were in attendance: Joseph Hughes, James Cruce, Robert H. Hughes, Abner Peter Clinton, John D. Gregory, Robert Hill, Henry R.D. Coleman and Samuel L. Phillips. (Under the Constitution, prior to 1850, there were no county judges and the county courts were held by the magistrates.)
At this court, John S. Gilliam was appointed clerk pro-tem. Harvey W. Bigham and David C. Flournoy were candidates before the court for county clerk. Several ballots were cast with a tie resulting each time. Flournoy's name was finally withdrawn and H.W. Brigham was elected the first clerk of the county court.
The oldest magistrate of the county was, by virtue of his office, also sheriff. Joseph Hughes, being the oldest justice, recommended that W.B. Hickman be appointed in his stead, and accordingly W.B. Hickman was made the first sheriff of the county.
Joseph Hughes was appointed the county treasurer; also he was the first man in the county authorized to solemnize the rite of matrimony.
Sumner Marble was appointed the first county attorney, being also the first lawyer admitted to the Crittenden County bar. William Culvert was the next lawyer admitted to the bar. John H. Bruff was the first jailer. James Duvall was the first surveyor.
The first list of taxpayers as shown by the assessor's books numbered 805. M.A. Shanks and James Duvall were allowed $75.68 for assessing the county. W.B. Hickman, as sheriff, received $23.83 for his services. Sumner Marble was allowed $25.00 for his first year's service as county attorney. H.W. Bigham, for services as clerk, was allowed $46.10. The whole expenses of the county for the year 1842 were $132.40.
By an act of the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Kentucky on the 26th day of January in 1842, a portion of land lying in Livingston County was set apart as Crittenden County and was organized with a court of its own. The new county, the 91st to be formed in Kentucky, was named in honor of John J. Crittenden, then Governor of the state of Kentucky and later U.S. Senator and Attorney General.
Later court meetings were held at the Brick Church near Marion, and Dr. John S. Gilliam, who had built Marion's first house in 1840, donated five acres of land where the public buildings now stand, for a courthouse site. He had paid $5 per acre for the land. The first courthouse, built of brick and completed June 10,1844, was burned by General Lyon's forces in January of 1865. A second one was built after the war, and in May 1870, it burned. It was rebuilt in 1871 and used until 1960, when the current courthouse was built.
In the early days, the Circuit Judge came from Henderson by buggy to conduct court, staying at least a month in the homes of friends or in one of Marion's two hotels. In 1844, rates fixed by court, at Gilliam's Hotel in his log home were: meals 25¢; night's lodging 12 1/2¢ horse all night, two feedings 25¢; whiskey half pint 5¢; rum, brandy, or wine 10¢.
Crittenden was once one of the nation's largest producers of fluorspar.
Another industry of the bygone age is the production of iron ore. Three furnaces once operated within the county's boundaries. Crittenden Furnace, near Dycusburg, was built in 1847 and operated by the Cobb and Lyon families. Hurricane Furnace was built by Andrew Jackson, Jr., in 1850. The Jackson Furnace, as it was sometimes called, and Deer Creek Furnace, were both located near Tolu, Kentucky.
The famous Saline Trace cuts through the northwestern section of Crittenden County. It was once known both by Flynn's Ferry Road and the Chickasaw Trail, but has now become known as simply The Trace. In 1790, this road was the site of a major battle between the Kaskaskias and Chickasaw Indians. Beginning at a dry creek bed near Piney Fork Church, it continues on to the historic site of Weston on the Ohio River.
Crittenden County's greatest
natural resource is its people. Nine thousand men, women and children
make Crittenden their home. More than half of these live on small
farms or in small towns scattered throughout the countryside.
The remaining population resides in Marion, the county seat and
the area's only metropolis.
A chronological history of...
The Crittenden Press
The City of Marion's oldest business wasn't around when the city was created in 1851, but if it were, you can bet the city's incorporation would have been on the front page of The Crittenden Press.
Its establishment in 1879 makes The Crittenden Press the oldest, continuously-operated Marion business. A close second is Henry and Henry Monuments, which began two years later.
The Crittenden Press was founded by R.C. Walker. In those first days, it's hard to imagine the long, painstaking process required to produce even a few lines of type, not to mention several pages eight columns wide.
The front of this week's edition of The Crittenden Press in keeping with the city's celebration of 150 years closely resembles the appearance the newspaper had when Walker began publishing in 1879.
History of the business has been passed down to each of the eight owners, including the descendants of Evers Mick, whose family continues to publish the weekly newspaper and The Early Bird Shopper's Guide.
According to history, the newspaper was distributed to as few as 200 subscribers in 1879. Growth was rapid, as subscriptions reached 500 the first few years and 1,800 by 1894.
Like the county's growth in the last 50 years, The Crittenden Press' growth has been steady. Circulation today is 4,300.
Walter Walker succeeded his father, R.C. Walker, as publisher of The Crittenden Press. He was followed by S.M. Jenkins and W.F. Hogard and his son Wilson Hogard.
The Hogards sold the newspaper to J.I. Brown, who owned it until 1955 when it was purchased by Charles E. Pepper.
Current ownership by the Mick family started in 1960, when Evers Mick branched out of his role as a radio announcer in Madisonville to embark on a career in print media.
Evers Mick was editor and publisher for nearly 10 years, with assistance from his wife, Lucille, and high school-age son, Paul. Evers Mick died suddenly on Christmas Day in 1969 at which time his son a 1969 graduate of Murray State University took the reins.
While Lucille Mick was not involved in the day-to-day operation of The Crittenden Press between 1969 and her death in 1989, she maintained close ties to the family business, helping out in the newspaper office from time to time. Through the 1970s and 1980s, a third generation of Micks, Allison, was introduced to the newspaper. As a teen-ager, she took photographs, worked in the darkroom and delivered newspapers.
Paul Mick published the newspaper until his tragic murder in 1990. At that time, John Lucas, a long-time Press editor, took over daily operations. Mick's wife, Nancy, remained as the company president and eventually served as publisher from 1993-1998.
In 1993, Ms. Mick hired Chris Evans to become only the second editor in more than 20 years at the newspaper. Evans, whose journalism career began in 1979 in Tennessee, had worked at The Press in the late 1980s as a reporter before spending five years at the Paducah Sun. Evans returned to Crittenden County and married Paul and Nancy Mick's oldest daughter, Allison. The couple operates the newspaper and they have three children, two daughters, Meredith Kate and Elliot Drew, and a son, Benjamin Paul.
Ms. Mick died in March of 2000.
Today, Evans and his wife Allison Mick-Evans own and operate the newspaper, which is still printed each week in Marion. It is one of the last family-owned newspapers in the state and the only locally-owned weekly west of Louisville that maintains its own printing press.
The Crittenden Press, Inc., which includes a second publication, The Early Bird, and a commercial printing division, has a staff of 13 employees. One employee in the production department, Faye Conger, has worked there for more than 25 years.
The award-winning weekly newspaper is considered one of the state's best in its category. A strong commitment to community news and professional reporting is testament to The Crittenden Press' longevity. The Press has been recognized many times by the Kentucky Press Association for its high journalistic standards.
Throughout its history, the newspaper has published a single issue every week except one. That was in 1999 when a B1 Bomber jet crashed shortly after the latest issue of The Press hit the streets. In a rare move, the newspaper published a second edition that day and had it on sale less than two hours after the jet had crashed into a firey ball just north of town near Mattoon.