1st Seat of Madison County

Historical Marker 2617 notes the first seat of Madison County: Milford. The county was formed from Lincoln County in 1785, by an act of the Virginia General Assembly, and became an officially designated area on August 22, 1786.

Once formed as a political boundary, a county seat needed to be chosen, so the county could begin the work of government. Paints Lick and Boonesborough were the major population centers in early Madison County. Each sought the designation but failed to gain it. Instead, Milford was chosen as a compromise location. It was a midpoint between Paints Lick and Boonesborough, had potable water via the confluence of two creeks, and usable land. Milford served as the governmental hub for a large area of Eastern Kentucky throughout its time as county seat. The land that was deemed Madison County in 1785 eventually was part of at least 13 subsequent Kentucky counties: Garrard, Knox, Estill, Clay, Rockcastle, Perry, Laurel, Breathitt, Letcher, Owsley, Jackson, Lee, and Leslie.

The first meeting of the County court took place at the home of George Adams. Magistrates and Justices of the Peace of the Courts were sworn in, procedures for taxes, wills, and other duties were established, and the work of the County began. The town was platted, a brick courthouse and jail were constructed, and businesses sprung up—driven by the operations of the County court. Still, the town was not appealing and the County Clerk, Will Irvine, refused to store the court records in the courthouse in Milford.

By 1797, Milford was no longer suitable as the county seat. While potable water was close, it was not sufficient for the needs of the town. The topography was difficult for growth, and the leaders of the county were unwilling to make improvements to the town. Citizens petitioned the Kentucky legislature to move the county seat to Richmond, nearly three miles north. The legislature granted the request in 1798. Understanding the financial disruption the change in county seat created, the state provided funds to Milford business owners for their losses.

Today, little of Milford remains. Still, its early history helped establish Madison County and helped the citizens of the area conduct the business of early Kentucky.

The marker was dedicated on August 22, 2021, the 235th anniversary of the founding of Madison County.

It reads:

Milford, 1st Seat of Madison County 

Madison County was created from 
Lincoln County in 1785 and later 
became 14 counties. Madison
County was formally organized at
Milford on August 22, 1786 as
approved by the Virginia General
Assembly with ten Justices of the
Court & other officials seated. 
A courthouse with jail opened in
1788. Milford was platted with a
commons, businesses, and homes.

Milford, 1st Seat of Madison County 

Milford was short lived as the
county seat due to geographic and
political reasons. The Kentucky
Legislature approved moving the 
county Seat of Justice to a more 
centralized Richmond in 1798.
The court last met in Milford on
January 6, 1798. The town then
rapidly declined. Milford was
to the south at Old Town Branch
Road & Old Town Branch Creek.



Madison County formally established at Milford, August 22, 1786.pdf / 105.06 kB Download
Madison County formally established at Milford, August 22, 1786.pdf / 115.33 kB Download
Kentucky Statute Lawpdf / 52.49 kB Download


1238 Barnes Mill Road, Richmond, KY