From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

McCreary County (KY) Free Blacks and Free Mulattoes, 1920-1930

McCreary County was the last county established in Kentucky. Located in southeastern Kentucky, it was developed in 1912 from portions of Pulaski, Wayne, and Whitley Counties and is bordered by those counties, Laurel County, and the state of Tennessee. The county was home to the Beatty Oil Well, drilled in 1818 and thought to be the first oil well in the state; the well was located in present day McCreary County [formerly Wayne County].

The McCreary county seat is the unincorporated town of Whitley City, which was known as Coolidge until 1880 when the Cincinnati and Southern Railroad placed a depot in the area and named it Whitley. The town was later renamed Whitley City, which is a census-designated place (CDP). [CDP is a concentration of population that is defined by the U.S. Census Bureau for statistical purposes only.]

McCreary County was named for James B. McCreary, a Confederate veteran of the Civil War who served as a Kentucky House Member, Governor of Kentucky, and a U.S. House member and senator. It was during McCreary's first term as governor that the Kentucky A&M College [University of Kentucky] was separated from Kentucky University [Transylvania University].

In 1920, the population of McCreary County was 11,682, increasing to 14,377 by 1930, according to the U.S. Federal Census. The county was formed well after the enslaved were freed by the 13th Amendment. Below are the number of African Americans in the county, 1920-1930.

1920 U.S. Federal Census

  • 24 Blacks [most with the last names Simpson and Logan]
  • 2 Mulattoes [Emma Baker and Cristine Simpson]
  • 2 Coloreds [Juanita Gains and Lafayett R. Kincaid]
  • At least two Blacks from McCreary County registered during the World War I Draft [Price Stigall and Henry Logan]

1930 U.S. Federal Census

  • 9 Blacks [last names Brown, Davis, Hudson, Napper, Simpson, Simson, Stegall, and Stigall]
  • 27 Negroes

1940 U.S. Federal Census

  • 40 Negroes

For more see the McCreary County entry in The Kentucky Encyclopedia, edited by J. E. Kleber; The First Oil Well in Kentucky, by W. R. Jillson; Rural Health Care Oral History Projectby T. H. Gatewood and K. L. Smith; and The Negro Population in Kentuckyby A. L. Coleman and D. I. Kim.

Kentucky County & Region

Read about McCreary County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Coolidge, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Whitley City, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Item Relations

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“McCreary County (KY) Free Blacks and Free Mulattoes, 1920-1930,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed May 30, 2024,

Last modified: 2023-09-05 16:32:06