Bullitt County, the twentieth in order of formation, is located in the far western Bluegrass region known as the Knobs. Bordered by Jefferson, Nelson, Spencer, and Hardin counties, it has an area of 300 square miles. The county was formed in December of 1796 from parts of Jefferson and Nelson counties and named far Alexander Scott Bullitt, Kentucky's first lieutenant governor (1800-1804) and the nephew of Capt. Thomas Bullitt. SHEPHERDSVILLE, founded in 1793 where the western leg of the Wilderness Road crossed Salt River, is the county seat. The first courthouse was built in 1804 of brick; the second, of Beaux Arts-influenced design, was constructed in 1900.
The county is hilly, with knobs covering most of its area. Salt River and its tributaries, the Rolling Fork and Floyd's Fork, drain to the west and empty into the Ohio River at West Point in Hardin County. Archaeological discoveries along parts of Salt River and Floyd's Fork indicate that Native Americans lived there 15,000 years ago. Settlers who arrived in the late 1770s and 1780s had numerous conflicts with Indians. Henry Crist, who later represented Kentucky in the U.S. House of Representatives (1809-11), was attacked by Indians in 1788 while attempting to navigate a boatload of salt kettles up Salt River. Of his party of thirteen, ten men were killed, a woman was captured, another man escaped, and Crist was badly wounded. Weakened by loss of blood, Crist crawled through the woods for three days, reaching safety among the salt makers at BULLITT'S LICK.
Salt licks attracted pioneers to the area. Furnaces to boil the salt-laden water were built at Bullitt's Lick, near what is now Shepherdsville. Named for surveyor Capt. Thomas Bullitt in 1779, they became the first commercial saltworks in Kentucky. Salt was manufactured also at Long Lick, Dry Lick, and Parakeet Lick. Iron ore is found in several places throughout the county, and smelting began at an early date.
The Bullitt County Genealogical Society museum will be open during courthouse business hours — 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. The courthouse is on Buckman Street in downtown Shepherdsville. Admission is free.
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