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Ballard County, Kentucky

Ballard County, Kentucky
Ballard County Courthouse in Wickliffe
Map of Kentucky highlighting Ballard County
Location in the state of Kentucky
Map of the United States highlighting Kentucky
Kentucky's location in the U.S.
Founded 1842
Named for Bland Ballard
Seat Wickliffe
Largest city La Center
 • Total 274 sq mi (710 km2)
 • Land 247 sq mi (640 km2)
 • Water 27 sq mi (70 km2), 9.9%
 • (2010) 8,249
 • Density 33/sq mi (13/km²)
Congressional district 1st
Time zone Central: UTC-6/-5

Ballard County is a county located in the U.S. state of Kentucky. As of the 2010 census, the population was 8,249.[1] Its county seat is Wickliffe.[2] The county was created by the Kentucky State Legislature in 1842 and is named for Captain Bland Ballard, a soldier, statesman, and member of the Kentucky General Assembly.[3] Ballard is a prohibition or dry county.

Ballard County is part of the Paducah, KY-IL Micropolitan Statistical Area.


  • History 1
    • Lynchings 1.1
      • C.J. Miller 1.1.1
      • Tom Hall 1.1.2
  • Geography 2
    • State protected area 2.1
    • Adjacent counties 2.2
  • Demographics 3
  • Communities 4
  • Notable residents 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7


Ballard County was formed from portions of American Revolutionary War, and later commanded a company during the War of 1812. On February 17, 1880, the courthouse was destroyed by a fire, which also destroyed most of the county's early records.[4] The county seat was transferred from Blandville to Wickliffe in 1882.[5]


Ballard County has a history of racial violence, dating back to the 19th century.

C.J. Miller

The journalist and civil rights leader Ida B. Wells, in her 1895 pamphlet A Red Record, details the gruesome death of C.J. Miller, an African-American traveling near Ballard County.[6]

On Wednesday, July 5, 1893, Two girls, Mary and Ruby Ray, were found murdered outside their home, near Wickliffe. Few clues were left except a blue coat at the crime scene. As news of the murders spread, search parties noticed a white man hiding in a nearby cornfield, who ran after being fired upon. A bloodhound picked up the scent of the man in the cornfield, and tracked him to a ferry that ran between Wickliffe and Birds Point, Missouri. The ferry operator, Frank Gordon, said that he had one passenger that evening, who had been either white or possibly "a very bright mulatto." The bloodhound picked up the scent of the suspect on the Missouri shore, but could not track him further inland.

On Thursday, July 6, in Sikeston, Missouri, C.J. Miller, an African-American traveler from Springfield, Illinois, had a verbal and physical altercation with a train brakesman at a train depot, for which Miller was arrested by Sikeston authorities late that morning. Upon noticing Miller was wearing a blue vest without any coat, and that Miller had rings inscribed with the first names of the two girls in his possession, the sheriff in Sikeston telegraphed the sheriff in Ballard County that he had his suspect in custody. However, no rings were ever taken into evidence.

The Ballard County sheriff, without an arrest warrant, and "a posse of thirty well-armed and determined Kentuckians," chartered a train Thursday evening and traveled to Sikeston to apprehend Miller, who professed to have never visited the state of Kentucky, from the Sikeston jail and extradite him to Kentucky. On Friday morning, the Ballard County sheriff sought out Gordon to see if he could identify Miller as the man he transported to Missouri on Wednesday evening. Gordon said that Miller was not the man he transported. After the Ballard County sheriff threatened Gordon with arrest on charges of complicity to murder, Gordon recanted his prior statements and said that Miller was the man he had ferried across the Mississippi River. While Gordon and the search parties who spotted the suspect in the woods noted that the suspect was white, the Cairo Evening Telegram noted that Miller was, in Wells' words, "a dark brown skinned man, with kinky hair, 'neither yellow nor white.'" The Ballard County sheriff released Miller to the custody of the mob, who prepared to lynch Miller.

The father of the two murdered girls protested at what was about to take place, certain that their murderer was a white man and still free, and that an innocent man was about to be killed in the name of justice. Miller was transported to the county seat of Ballard County and on Friday, July 7, 1893, Miller made his final pleas of innocence to the mob. Even as "numbers of rough, drunken men crowded into [Miller's] cell" to coerce a confession from Miller, he still proclaimed his innocence, stating "burning and torture here lasts but a little while, but if I die with a lie on my soul, I shall be tortured forever. I am innocent." At 3:00 that afternoon, a heavy log chain, weighing over one hundred pounds, was placed around Miller's neck, and he was dragged through the streets of the county seat and suspended from a telegraph pole. Miller was then raised with a stick and allowed to drop, breaking Miller's neck. Members of the armed, drunken crowd then shot Miller repeatedly. Miller's body was suspended for two hours, after which his fingers and toes were cut off by Ballard Countians as souvenirs, and Miller's body was burned in the streets.

Wells concludes "it is the honest and sober belief of many who witnessed the scene that an innocent man has been barbarously and shockingly put to death in the glare of the 19th century civilization, by those who profess to believe in Christianity, law and order."[7]

Tom Hall

On October 15, 1903, a mob organized near Wickliffe and the county jailer surrendered the keys to the Ballard County jail, to the mob. Tom Hall, a black man, accused of the critical wounding of a white man near Kevil on October 11, was lynched and left partially naked, suspended from a tree in Wickliffe.[8] Tom Hall professed his innocence in the shooting, which occurred after a disagreement between two white men and a group of black men; Hall stated he was an innocent bystander wounded by crossfire.[9]


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 274 square miles (710 km2), of which 247 square miles (640 km2) is land and 27 square miles (70 km2) (9.9%) is water.[10]

State protected area

Axe Lake Swamp State Nature Preserve is a 458 acres (1.85 km2) nature preserve located in Ballard County, in the Barlow Bottoms. The preserve is part of the 3,000-acre (12 km2) Axe Lake Swamp wetlands complex which supports at least eight rare plant and animal species. The site has been recognized as a priority wetland in the North American Waterfowl Management Plan.[11]

Adjacent counties


As of the census[17] of 2000, there were 8,286 people, 3,395 households, and 2,413 families residing in the county. The population density was 33 per square mile (13/km2). There were 3,837 housing units at an average density of 15 per square mile (5.8/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 95.32% White, 2.87% Black or African American, 0.08% Native American, 0.18% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.08% from other races, and 1.44% from two or more races. 0.63% of the population were Hispanics or Latinos of any race.

There were 3,395 households out of which 30.70% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 59.60% were married couples living together, 8.00% had a female householder with no husband present, and 28.90% were non-families. 25.80% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.70% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.39 and the average family size was 2.85.

The age distribution was 23.10% under the age of 18, 7.60% from 18 to 24, 27.70% from 25 to 44, 25.40% from 45 to 64, and 16.20% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females there were 97.50 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 94.00 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $32,130, and the median income for a family was $41,386. Males had a median income of $32,345 versus $20,902 for females. The per capita income for the county was $19,035. About 10.70% of families and 13.60% of the population were below the poverty line, including 19.30% of those under age 18 and 15.40% of those age 65 or over.


Notable residents

Morris E. Crain, Medal of Honor recipient for his bravery during WWII.

Kenny Rollins, an American basketball player who was a member of the University of Kentucky's "Fab Five" who won the 1948 NCAA Championship, the 1948 Gold Medal Winning U.S. Olympic Team, and the NBA's Chicago Stags and Boston Celtics.

Oscar Turner (1825–1896), State Senator, U. S. Representative and namesake of Oscar, Kentucky.

See also


  1. ^ a b "State & County QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved March 5, 2014. 
  2. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ Hogan, Roseann Reinemuth (1992). Kentucky Ancestry: A Guide to Genealogical and Historical Research. Ancestry Publishing. p. 189. Retrieved 26 July 2013. 
  6. ^  
  7. ^ Ida B. Wells-Barnett (1 April 2014). On Lynchings. A Red Record. Courier Corporation. p. 64.  
  8. ^ "Tom Hall Was Taken From the Kevil Jail and Hanged".  
  9. ^
  10. ^ "2010 Census Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. August 22, 2012. Retrieved August 12, 2014. 
  11. ^
  12. ^ "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2014". Retrieved June 4, 2015. 
  13. ^ "U.S. Decennial Census". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved August 12, 2014. 
  14. ^ "Historical Census Browser". University of Virginia Library. Retrieved August 12, 2014. 
  15. ^ "Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved August 12, 2014. 
  16. ^ "Census 2000 PHC-T-4. Ranking Tables for Counties: 1990 and 2000" (PDF). United States Census Bureau. Retrieved August 12, 2014. 
  17. ^ "American FactFinder".  

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