Historical Marker #1126 commemorates the town of Paintsville, the county seat of Johnson County.

Located at the junction of the Big Sandy River and Paint Creek, the first Anglo visitors arrived in 1750, when Dr. Thomas Walker led an expedition into the area to explore a land grant. After Walker's exploration, Colonel John Preston and others bought tracts of the wilderness. In 1790, Preston established a trading post called Paint Lick Station after the colorful Native American markings on the trees and the salt licks surrounding the area.

In the early nineteenth century, a North Carolinian, Rev. Henry Dickson, gained possession of the land at the mouth of Paint Creek. There, he established the first permanent residence in Paintsville. The first town was legally established by the General Assembly in 1834. When Johnson County was formed by the General Assembly in 1843, Paintsville was chosen as the county seat.

The first courthouse was built in Paintsville around 1850, and the first school was completed about a year later. Paintsville's largest period of growth occurred in the early twentieth century when hometown entrepreneur John C.C. Mayo began amassing land rights to the rich coal lands of eastern Kentucky. This attracted numerous companies and railroads to the area, and Mayo donated much time and money to the development of the town.


Main Street, Paintsville, Kentucky<br /><br />

Main Street, Paintsville, Kentucky

The county seat of Johnson County, Paintsville experienced its greatest growth in large part to John C.C. Mayo, a Paintsville native who gave many resources to the town after he gained wealth in the coal industry. Courtesy of the University of Kentucky. View File Details Page

Paintsville High School

Paintsville High School

Courtesy of the University of Kentucky. View File Details Page

City Hall ca. 1940

City Hall ca. 1940

The first city hall in Paintsville was completed around 1850 after the town was established in 1834. This photo depicts the city hall of Painstville in the 1940s. Courtesy of the University of Kentucky. View File Details Page

The Big Sandy River

The Big Sandy River

Paintsville is located in the Big Sandy River Valley of eastern Kentucky. The waterways in the area were one the contributing factors in the settlement of Paintsville. Courtesy of the Kentucky Historical Society. View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

McKenzie Martin, “Paintsville,” ExploreKYHistory, accessed July 27, 2017,


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