Boone County: A Historic Overview
Located in the largest bend of the Ohio River, a few miles downstream from Cincinnati, Boone County is the northernmost county in Kentucky. For forty-two miles the Ohio River bounds the county on the north and west. The Greater Cincinnati Northern Kentucky International Airport is located in the County. As in most sections of the outer Bluegrass Region of Kentucky, the land in Boone County is gently rolling to steeply hilly. Boone County has a significant prehistoric heritage. Glacial activity from long ago left substantial gravel and limestone deposits along today's Ohio River as well as natural wonders formed from glacial outwash such as Split Rock, at the mouth of Woolper Creek, and Boone Cliffs, along Middle Creek. Archaeological research has demonstrated that Boone County has been populated for thousands of years. Prehistoric Indian burial mounds, villages, and hunting sites are located throughout the county along the river and creeks as well as in the uplands. Today's town of Petersburg, for example, was a large late prehistoric village site with at least two periods of habitation dating to c. 1150 A.D. and c. 1400 A.D.
At the end of the French and Indian War, Captain Thomas Bullitt, led surveyors to this territory in 1773 when it was a part of Fincastle County, Virginia. In 1789, over a decade after the first settlement in central Kentucky, John Tanner, a Baptist preacher from North Carolina, established Tanner's Station, now known as Petersburg, along the Ohio River. Tanner's Station was the first formal settlement in what would shortly become Boone County. The community's name was changed to Petersburg in 1814 and in 1794 seven people founded the Bullittsburg Baptist Church in the North Bend Bottoms area up river from Tanner's Station. Bullittsburg Baptist Church is the longest continuously active church in the county, still holding worship services in their 1819 sanctuary.
Boone County was officially established in 1799 (having been created by the Kentucky Legislature in 1798 with a population of approximately 1500. On June 17, 1799 the first county court, held at the William Cave home in North Bend Bottoms, decided to locate the county seat on a seventy-four acre site donated by Robert Johnson and John Hawkins Craig in the north-central part of the county. The town, originally known as Craig's Camp, was initially named Wilmington and, at the request of the Post Office, renamed Burlington in 1816. In its earliest days, Boone County prospered largely because of the Ohio River that forms its northern and western boundaries. The c. 1817 Anderson Ferry at Constance, along the county's northern river edge, has been in continuous year-round operation for almost two hundred years and is today one of only three full-time ferry operations remaining along the entire stretch of the Ohio
With the completion of the first rail lines through the county in 1869, the town of Walton held great promise as the county's primary railroad community. By the late nineteenth century, it was the Boone County's largest city with a population of 538. Walton has the positive distinction of being home to the first county high school, established in 1901. In the late 1880s, the town of Erlanger was established across the county line from Florence. The railroad promoted the sale of land near its right-of-way, and Florence's population fell 24 percent at the turn of the century, and remained so until 1930. With the advent of automobile, long, tiresome journeys to the city, over the river road through Constance or the Dixie Highway through Florence, became short and enjoyable. It became possible to work in the city and live in Boone County. It was the beginning of a new era.
The county has grown significantly. With the construction of Interstates 71 and 75 in the late 1960s, Boone County became one of the fastest growing counties in the nation. Based on the 2010 census figures, Boone County is still one of the fastest growing counties in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. The last half of the twentieth century has been a time of tremendous change for Boone County. There are three incorporated cities, Florence, Union and Walton, but much of the county is unincorporated, including the county seat of Burlington. The population has increased from 57,589 in 1980 to more than 131,000 in 2015. Industry and commercial development is flourishing. The twenty-first century will be an exciting time for Boone County. The county's geographical diversity provides an excellent quality of life and every indication is that Boone County will continue to grow and prosper.