Knox Historical Museum Needs Your Help

by Regina Bargo, Staff Writer

With the advent of social media, today’s history is being documented online. However, this generation and those to come are taxed with trying to find its history and genealogy before social media. The leaders and volunteers of the Knox Historical Museum have spent countless hours to locate information and artifacts that detail the history of this area and its people.

Did you know that:

The museum creates the Daniel Boone Festival Catalog each year and a calendar full of historical photos?

The museum has hundreds of followers in and out of the state of Kentucky by way of the museum's award winning magazine, The Knox Countian? The museum has thousands of followers by way of two websites: The Knox Historical Museum Website (you can sign up for emails here) and the Knox County History with Mike Mills.

The museum searches out genealogy documents, collects Knox County and Barbourville History, and shares it with you free of charge?

They have photos of cemeteries and can tell you who is buried in them.

In addition, all of the staff work for FREE? (Two of which travel from other counties to do so.

Knox County, which has never had more than 30,000 citizens, produced two governors, a lieutenant governor, a Supreme Court member and a governor of Missouri?

Barbourville has the first college in southeast Kentucky, Union College and it Is where the first battle of the Civil War in which anyone was hurt was located here (The Battle of Barbourville)?

The Mintons made us famous with their golf clubs?

Lawyer Caleb Powers who was accused of the only governor assassination was from Whitley County, but lived here most of his life?

Before Kentucky was a state, Barbourville existed as a county in Virginia?

The five surrounding counties were once all a part of Barbourville? Therefore, our history is their history!
When Michael C. Mills used to visit schools in other counties, he would tell them, “You all don’t have a history. All you have is the date in which you were cut off from Knox County!” He added, “Your earliest records are at our courthouse!” Current President, Steve Valentine explained the way that officials determined when a new county should be created was If it took over a day’s horse ride to get to the county seat, they were made a county.

The Knox Historical Museum has been in existence since 1989. It has been collecting, documenting, and sharing history for over thirty years! The original site for the museum was provided for by the City of Barbourville on the second floor of the City Municipal Building on Daniel Boone Drive. The museum was the outgrowth of a talk between historians, Sherman Oxendine and Past President, Michael C. Mills, and its first president, David Cole who was aided by Jakalyn Jackson and Susan Arthur of the old Knox County Historical Society and its members. At the time, the mayor of Barbourville challenged the museum to one day look for a bigger and better facility.

After a few years as president of the museum, David Cole passed the leadership of the museum on to historian Charles Reed Mitchell, who with the support of Susan Arthur, kept it going for many years. Mitchell is still the most dedicated leader.
For the past nine years, ending in 2022, Michael C. Mills was President of the Knox Historical Museum. During these years, the museum added a Genealogical Society Library which is said to be the best such genealogy library in the state! Under the leadership of Mr. Wayne Adams, all workers at the Museum are volunteers and are very dedicated to the museum. Former President Michael C. Mills says the present group of museum volunteers are the best “ever!”

Before it had to be dismantled, the museum offered nine plus rooms of history: Pioneer Days, Early Barbourville, Daniel Boone, War (Civil War, WWI, WWII), Early leaders - Caleb Powers Assination (his law degree, his desk, and his tombstone), and a Community Room which showed each community’s coal mine, 100 one room schools, general stores, and moonshine stills, photos of all churches, photos of former restaurants, and businesses, flood of 1977, genealogy records, historical calendars since 2013, items from the old Owens House, Governor Sampson’s back porch chair, couch, and table, and many other artifacts.

As you may know by now, the present City Hall Building is going to be torn down and replaced by a new building. A grant has been written in hopes of the museum being located on the second floor of the new building.

Unfortunately, the museum does not have the funds to pay rent or monthly utilities which have graciously been taken care of by the City of Barbourville for the past thirty years. Therefore, for the time being, the contents of the museum have been boxed and stored away. The genealogy portion of the museum is still accessible. If you would like help in researching your family history, you can simply give them a call at 606-546-7581. They can also be reached by email at or

The Knox Historical Museum Needs Your Help!

In order to raise funds to help recoup the cost of moving, the Knox Historical Museum, members will be selling copies of their previous calendars and magazines at the Daniel Boone Festival. They have been extremely popular in the past.

Another way to help is by becoming a member of the Knox Historical There are membership levels ranging from 20.00 to a 500.00 lifetime membership.

Finally, President Steve Valentine humbly requests: To our fellow Knox Countians and all others that are impacted by our history, we want to encourage you to reach out and make a donation today to support our relentless efforts in preserving Knox County history and helping to trace family genealogies.
All donations are very much appreciated. Checks should be mailed to P.O. Box 1446, Barbourville, KY 40906 or you can also donate through paypal at

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