Knox Historical Museum

History & Genealogy Center

Established 1987 in Barbourville, Kentucky
knox historical museum logo


Your tour actually begins as you enter the Barbourville Municipal Building. At the bottom of the stairwell is a photograph of the old courthouse and the bell that once rang from its uppermost reaches. Information signs and large photographs line the walls as visitors ascend to the second floor where the museum is located. The large lobby at the top of the stairs contains several of our favorite photos enlarged for your enjoyment, whether the museum proper is open or not.


The next stop is the Reception Room.  This room houses the "Spotlight Showcase" which features a changing exhibit of items related to current community interests.  Also of interest are the artifacts from the L&N Railroad, which reached Barbourville in 1888.  The large wooden beams against the wall were part of the old depot.
There is also a small display which offers a number of souvenirs and publications for sale.


Items in this room would have been common about a hundred years ago: the rope (or "corded") bed, the spinning wheel, threadmaking equipment, and early Singer sewing machine.  The quilt was a product of the Kentucky Bicentennial celebration and shows scenes from Knox County's history.


Notice the extensive collection of arrowheads, spear points and other artifacts.  They have been arranged by prehistoric periods.
Pioneer artifacts include a split rail fence and other tools.  Household items and early maps are also on display.
The sitting room corner is made up of items from the John Allen Owens house.


This room features doctors' and dentists' displays.  The local hotels, banks, and businesses are represented here, including the wheels and rail pieces from the town's streetcar.


This room contains memorabilia from the Daniel Boone Festival held annually in Barbourville, Kentucky since 1948. Featured items include the Cherokee Cane Treaty, minutes of the festival committees over the years, numerous photos dating back to the festival's beginning, posters, catalogs, medals, medallions, collectible coins and more.


This room is dedicated to the Knox Countians who served their country in times of war.  Although items from World War Two are the most numerous, you may also see objects from the Mexican War, the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, World War One, and the Korean War.


One exhibit features tools and a coal mining scene emphasizing the discomfort of mining in a narrow seam.
We also have displays of agriculture, schools, athletics, and commerce.  Ben Messer's Country Store reminds us of what was for sale in the early 20th century.
Knox County was not famous for moonshine but whiskey has been produced in the county, legally and otherwise.  The moonshine still on display was captured by the sheriff in the spring of 1997.
On the upper walls are photographs of every church serving the county in 1985.


Knox County produced two Kentucky governors (James D. Black and Flem D. Sampson), a Missouri governor (Silas Woodson), a Supreme Court Justice (Samuel F. Miller, appointed by President Lincoln), and Eisenhower’s Chairman of the Interstate Commerce Department, Kenneth Tuggle.
One of the most colorful Knox Countians was Caleb Powers.  His work desk and personal items are on display.  Powers was implicated in the assassination of Kentucky Governor William Goebel in 1900, facing four trials before being freed.
T.W. Minton built the Minton Hickory Mills in 1911.  Wooden golf clubs, canes, pointers and auto and wagon spokes from his company are on display.  The Mintons also had a horse farm that produced champion horses acknowledged worldwide.


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