McCreary County was the last of the 120 counties in the commonwealth to be created on May 12, 1912. The majority of the land in McCreary County was carved out of Whitley and Wayne Counties but also sections were taken from Laurel and Pulaski Counties. The county was named for James B. McCreary a former governor of Kentucky who served one term from 1875-1879 and then again almost 40 years later from 1911-1915. Over half of the land in McCreary County is owned by the federal government.
The McCreary County courthouse is located in the county seat of Whitley City.
Whitley City is one of two county seats in the state that are not incorporated towns or cities. The other is Burlington in Boone County.
The courthouse was completed in 1953 after a fire destroyed the previous courthouse in 1951.