Bath County

Historical Marker #940 in Owingsville notes several important and influential personalities from the history of Bath County.

Founded in 1811, Bath County is named for its mineral and medicinal springs. The famous Olympian Springs resort was a popular summer getaway visited for its beautiful scenery and supposed healing waters. Travelers from across the country journeyed to the Bluegrass State to bathe in the springs' mineral waters. The area was also well known for its rich iron ore deposits that attracted the attention of wealthy businessmen. Bath County iron foundries supplied Kentucky and Tennessee with the much needed commodity during their early years.

Thomas Deye Owings, a Maryland native, moved to the area in 1800 after his father purchased an iron foundry. Owings eventually became the owner of Bourbon Iron Works and was one of the only ironmasters in the state. The town of Owingsville, which was named for the influential industrialist, was made the county seat in 1811.

Bath County also claims several other notable historical figures, including Confederate general John Bell Hood and antebellum politician Richard H. Menefee. Hood was born near Owingsville in 1831. After graduating from the U.S. Military Academy, Hood served in the army, mainly on the Texas frontier. In 1861, Hood resigned his officer's position and joined the Confederacy. A fierce fighter and leader, Hood lost the use of his arm at Gettysburg and lost his leg at the Battle of Chickamauga. He retired to New Orleans after the war and died of yellow fever in 1879.

Richard Menefee was born in Bath County in 1809. After an education at Transylvania University, he became an attorney. Menefee's law work led to a career in politics. He was elected to the U.S. Congress at age of 27 and served one term from 1837-1839. Menefee died of consumption in 1841, five days after he was nominated for a seat in the U.S. Senate. One of Bath County's neighboring counties—although spelled Menifee—was created in 1869 and was named for the statesman.

Railroad and interstate highway communication have produced some industrial activity in Bath County, but the area has retained much of its rural setting and agricultural economic ties. Long gone are Olympian Springs and the once flourishing iron industries, but the natural beauty of the hills and mountains of Bath County remain a pleasant constant.