Historical Marker #860 in Stanford commemorates the establishment of Lincoln County and its early history. Lincoln County was one of the first three counties in what would become the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
When Kentucky County, Virginia, was established in 1776, the area the district encompassed was immense and sparsely populated. As more settlers moved into the area during the 1770s, division into governable counties was necessary. In 1780, Virginia replaced Kentucky county with the counties of Jefferson, Fayette, and Lincoln; all named for notable figures from the American Revolution. Later, in 1786, Lincoln County was divided by the addition of Mercer and Madison counties. After statehood in 1792, Lincoln County continued to be divided as more counties were added to the commonwealth.
Lincoln County's lands and resources attracted many settlers to the area. Notable early Kentuckians such as Benjamin and John Logan, William Whitley, and Isaac Shelby all called Lincoln County home. Numerous settlements quickly developed there in the decades before statehood. Locations including Logan's Station (St. Asaph), Montgomery's Station, Knob Lick Station, and McKinney's Station, among others, provided European-American settlers with places to find protection and strength in numbers against Native American attacks.
During the late-eighteenth century and into the nineteenth century, Lincoln County, like most of Kentucky, based its economy on agriculture. Crops such as corn, wheat, and hemp provided the county's famers with sustenance and marketable products. Before and through the Civil War, Lincoln County relied heavily on slave labor to do much of its farm work. In 1860, slaves made up thirty-two percent of the county's population. After the Civil War, an effort was made to bring in European immigrants to Lincoln County. A German-Swiss community was established at Ottenheim that developed into more than one hundred families.
Today, family farms and small towns still predominate in Lincoln County. The continued rural heritage of Lincoln County makes it easier for those that live there, and those that visit, to imagine the county's important early history.