"Estill County, the fiftieth in order of formation, was established on February 19th, 1808, from parts of Clark and Madison counties. It was named in honor of Capt. James Estill, who was killed by Indians during Estill's Defeat on March 22, 1782. The county is located in eastern Kentucky and comprises an area of 256 square miles, bordered by Clark, Jackson, Lee, Madison, and Powell counties. The county seat is Irvine.
Although mostly hilly, the fertile bottomlands are highly productive agricultural areas. Large crops of tobacco and alfalfa are grown, and there is limited livestock production. Extensive quantities of coal and smaller deposits of oil, iron ore, and lead are also found in the county. Approximately 75 percent of Estill County is forest, of which 4,458 acres lie within the Daniel Boone National Forest . Along with the Kentucky River , the principal streams of the county are the Red River and the Station Camp, Beech, Cow, Drowning, and Miller’s creeks.
Prior to pioneer settlement, Estill County was the site of a Shawnee village at Estill Springs, along the banks of Station Camp Creek. In the 1760s and 1770s, after John Finley, Daniel Boone, and Robert McAfee explored the area, many early settlers entered the region by way of an old buffalo and Indian trace that led to Boonesborough in what is now Madison County .
The mineral wealth of the region played an important role in the development of the county. The Shawnee mined lead in the area, and early settlers recognized the industrial potential of the region. The production of iron began in about 1810 and became one of the earliest industries. Evidence of the once-thriving iron industry can be found in the ruins of the Estill steam furnace, which operated from 1830 to 1874; the Cottage furnace; the Red River iron works; and the Fitchburg furnace. The iron industry declined after 1865 when iron deposits and timber to fire the furnaces were depleted, and innovations in the iron industry made charcoal furnaces obsolete.
The large hotel and landscaped grounds at Estill Springs drew many famous Kentuckians to the summer retreat before the Civil War. Greene Clay, who owned the springs, Henry Clay, John Crittenden, and John C. Breckinridge were among the notables who summered there. The resort survived the Civil War and operated into the twentieth century.
Among the towns, villages, and communities in Estill County are the communities of Ravenna , Fitchburg , North Irvine , Sand Hill, South Irvine, and West Irvine . Estill County has two weekly newspapers, the Citizen Voice and Times and Estill County Tribune, both published in Irvine , and one radio station (WIRV).”
From: The Kentucky Encyclopedia, edited by John Kleber. University Press of Kentucky. Copyright 1992
Brief Timeline of Estill County (and Estill Development Alliance) History
1792 Kentucky established as a State 1800 Green Clay buys "Sweet Springs" [Estill Springs] 1808 Estill Co. formed from Madison & Clark Counties [50th county] 1808 Estill Co. erects its first courthouse of logs 1810 Estill Co. shows a population of 2,082 1812 The town of Irvine established 1820 Estill Co. shows a population of 3,507 1830 Estill Steam Iron Ore Furnace erected 1830 Estill County's first brick Court House erected 1830 Estill Co. shows a population of 4,618 1840 Estill Co. shows a population of 5,535 1843 Owsley County formed from a part of Estill County 1844 Early Estill County resident and hero Joseph Proctor dies at the age of 89 1850 Estill Co. shows a population of 5,985 1852 Powell County formed from part of Estill County 1854 Cottage Furnace erected 1857 Infamous murderer Edward Hawkins hanged in Estill County for his crimes 1860 Estill Co. shows a population of 6,886. [includes 600 slaves] 1861 The 8th Kentucky Vol. Inf. Reg. [Federal] organized at Estill Springs 1863 Estill County soldiers [8th KY] place flag on Lookout Mountain 1864 Irvine raided by Confederate guerillas, who ransacked the town and burned the jail 1868 Estill County's third courthouse erected [completed in 1870] 1869 Fitchburg Furnace [twin stack] erected 1870 W.W. Pigg begins stage coach service between Richmond and Irvine [scheduled 4 hours running time] 1870 Lee County is formed from part of Estill County 1871 Race riot at Fitchburg Furnace, leaving 3 dead and soldiers brought in to take control 1890 First train arrives in Irvine 1890 Stage coach passenger service is discontinued between Richmond and Irvine 1890 Charter granted by General Assembly for Estill County Deposit Bank, Irvine's first 1890 New jail built for Estill County 1890 The "Estill Eagle" newspaper begins publication 1896 The "Spout Springs Times" newspaper begins publication 1900 The Mowbry-Robinson Lumber Company built at West Irvine 1905 Estill Collegiate Institute incorporated 1907 The Irvine Telephone Company incorporated 1909 Irvine Toll Bridge incorporated 1913 The "Irvine Sun" newspaper begins publication 1913 The "Estill Tribune" newspaper begins publication 1915 The L&N RR Company builds East Kentucky Headquarters in Ravenna 1916 Estill County Board of Education buys the Estill Collegiate Institute for $7,500 1917 Oil boom in Estill County 1921 The town of Ravenna is incorporated 1924 Estill Springs Hotel burns down and not rebuilt 1926 Famed character actor Harry Dean Stanton born in West Irvine 1927 The "Estill Herald" newspaper begins publication 1927 Irvine-Ravenna Kiwanis Club founded 1930 Estill County shows a population of 17,000 plus 1931 Carhartt starts sewing factory in Irvine 1932 St. Elizabeth Catholic Church dedicated in Ravenna 1932 The Estill Herald, the Irvine Times, & the Estill Tribune published weekly 1936 Famed college and pro basketball coach and Irvine native, Lee Rose, born 1939 Work is started by the WPA to build a new courthouse 1940 Old railroad bridge at Irvine demolished for war purposes 1940 New bridge built across the Kentucky River at Irvine 1949 Estill County Fair Association Founded 1955 Estill Dairy opens 1956 Passenger rail service ceases in Estill County 1958 Estill County celebrated its 150th birthday 1958 Estill County Hospital (later Marcum & Wallace Memorial Hospital) erected 1961 Tornado rips through Ravenna, injuring several people 1961 Irvine Community Television founded 1965 Southeast Coal Company opens coal processing facility 1971 Member of the Backstreet Boys and Estill County High alum Kevin Richardson born. 1972 Citizens Guaranty Bank founded 1980 Hardy Oil Company founded 1981 Estill County Historical & Genealogical Society founded 1985 Estill Dairy closes 1987 Southeast Coal Company closes coal processing facility 1987 Estill Wood Products opens 1989 Estill County Industrial Development Authority formed 1990 Estill County census shows a population of over 14,000 1994 Carhartt builds new production plant 1995 Estill County 21st Century, Inc. founded to spur citizen-led development 1996 Estill County Hall of Honor established 1998 Estill County Chamber of Commerce merges with Estill Co. 21st Century, Inc. 1998 Irvine, Ravenna & Hargett schools closed 1999 Work commences on new By-Pass for Irvine and second bridge across Kentucky River 2000 Downtown Irvine revitalization work begins 2000 Estill County 21st Century, Inc. is renamed Estill Development Alliance 2000 Estill County census shows a population of 15,307 2005 Joe Crawford becomes Executive Director of Estill Development Alliance 2005 Estill County Chamber of Commerce re-launched as operating division of EDA 2006 EDA establishes youth leadership development group, Irvine YALL 2006 Oil exploration resurgence in Estill County 2007 Irvine YALL receives honors for projects from International Community Problem Solving 2008 Estill County Youth Football League founded 2008 First Estill County team attends Brushy Fork Institute 2008 Estill County celebrates bicentennial, including LocoMagic public art project 2009 EC2 strategic planning project held by EDA 2009 Breathitt, Estill, Lee & Powell Regional Tech Authority formed to bring broadband access to rural parts of the four counties 2010 EDA forms Honorable Order of Estill County Captains 2010 Leadership Estill County launched 2010 Estill County census shows a population of 14,672 2011 Micro-venture fund feasibility study completed 2011 Leadership LEAP formed in partnership with Lee & Powell Counties 2011 Entrepreneur academy held in partnership with EKU CEDET 2011 Estill County Local-Motive begins 2011 Growing Local Economies partnership receives funding from Babcock Foundation for business network 2012 Local Motive expands to become Eastern Kentucky Local Motive 2012 Leadership LEAP adds Jackson County as a partner 2012 EDA opens business incubator, the Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs 2013 EDA founds Estill County Community Foundation to facilitate local giving and grant-making 2013 Lee, Estill, Wolfe & Powell Counties form LEWP Multi-County Recreation Board to explore trail development 2013 River City Players community theater group forms and becomes an operating division of EDA 2014 Leadership LEAP begins partnering with Wolfe and Owsley Counties