The Harlan County Kentucky Courthouse

We all know the story of how the Harlan County courthouse was burned by confederates during the civil war.  But did you know that this is actually the fifth courthouse of Harlan County and the second to sit on this site.?  The present Harlan County courthouse was constructed in 1918-22. The courthouse is built using Indiana limestone and is a two-story, stone structure with a Beaux-Arts influence.



The initial site for the first three courthouses in Harlan located on a mound in the city, which due to this mound was initially called Mount Pleasant. Turns out that this was an Indian burial mound, as further digging an excavation during the building of subsequent buildings onsite revealed bones and other artifacts. When the courthouse was moved to the present site pictured above, the old courthouse remained, and was later used as a meeting hall and Masonic lodge.


The doughboy statue at the Harlan County Courthouse


Sitting on the courthouse lawn is a monument to those who were killed in coal mines.  Im honestly unsure of how many names are listed on this monument but the names date back to the 1920s.  Coal mining remains an important part of Harlan and its history. Repeated attempts to organize labor and the related conflict between mine owners and their security led to a great deal of violence in the region, and the nickname “Bloody Harlan” being attached to the area. The National Guard was even called in May 5, 1931, in response to violence surrounding a strike.


3 thoughts on “The Harlan County Kentucky Courthouse”

  1. my father in law told me that when this court house was built, there was and/or had been a statue of Silas Harlan at the previous court house(s). but it seems to have disappeared. he and i both researched and searched all over the place for that statue! nobody seems to know anything about it. do you? LOL

  2. I am originally from Harlan County. This is the 4th courthouse. The second one was burned during the Civil War in retaliation because of the one that was burned in Lee Co. Virginia. The 3rd one was build in 1888 and made of brick. My great grandfather was the jailer then. And no, there was not a statue of Silas Harlan.

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