Welcome back folks. It’s been a while since we visited our last county, and it was a pretty long drive from Western Kentucky. But we fought through it and have officially landed in Pike County. Let’s take a look …
On our furthest eastern tip is Pike County, founded in 1821. Pike is the largest Kentucky county when we’re talking land area, at 788 square miles. Pike County is named for Zebulon Montgomery Pike, or Zebby, as I just made up but would probably have called him. Zeb was born during the Revolutionary War and led many expeditions into the west, scouting and documenting parts of the Louisiana territory. Eventually he made it far enough west to discover the aptly named Pike’s Peak in Colorado. In addition to our Pike County (which is better than all the rest), there are 9 other states with counties named after Zeb M. Pike, a fort, a National Forest, a ship, and a dam in Iowa where you can ask all the Pike dam questions you’d like.
As Kevin Costner and the History Channel (who actually did something history related for a change) showed us last year, one of the draws to Pike County relates to the famed feud between the Hatfields and McCoys. As you’d expect most Kentucky/West Virginia feuds to start, this one started over a hog. Floyd Hatfield (West Virgina ) said it was his while Randolph McCoy (Kentucky) said it was his. This led to a court battle where a relative of both families sided with the Hatfields, and was subsequently killed by two McCoy brothers after the verdict. I won’t go into further details but let’s just say this fight has it all. There’s star crossed lovers, bar fights and countless murders. At one point, even the US Supreme Court became involved. While this feud took place all over the KY/WV/VA border, McCoy patriarch Randolph is buried in the Dils Cemetery in Pikeville. There are numerous tours both guided and otherwise that you can take while in Pikeville that will fill you in on the history as well as current, less murder-y developments.
Did someone say Pikeville?!? Yip, I did. Welcome to Pikeville everyone! Grab yourself a seat and I’ll try to get this over so you all can meet Matt and Drew at Prohibition’s Ladies Night. All 3 of ya. Anyways, Pikeville is the county seat of Pike County, with a population of just around 7,000, or around 8,800 if you count Coal Run Village. Originally named Pike, then Piketon, Pikeville was established in 1824. Located in the Appalachian Mountains along the Big Sandy River, Pikeville is the site of one of the Western Hemisphere’s largest ‘rock cuts’ creating space for a four-lane highway and a railroad line by moving nearly as much soil and rock as the Big Dig in Boston. Since the 1990s, Pikeville’s economy has exploded starting with the May Tower addition of the giant Pikeville Medical Center in 1998. This was followed by an 11-story clinic in 2014, reiterating the hospital’s National Hospital of the Year award won 3 years in a row from 2009-2011. Add on a new Coal Building at U. Pikeville and the Eastern Kentucky Exposition Center and The City that moves Mountains will need to move more here soon!
Of course we can’t talk about Pikeville without mentioning everyone’s favorite event (right Nerlens?) Hillbilly Days! Dating all the way back to 1977, Hillbilly Days is an annual fundraiser benefiting Shriner’s Children’s Hospital here in Lexington. Drawing in over 100,000 people each year, this festival is 3 days worth of parades, food and fun! There’s a carnival complete with a ferris wheel, Tilt-A-Whirl and me getting nauseous on the Sizzler. Tons of food and drink vendors, with me eating funnel cakes and deep fried Oreos which I shouldn’t have before riding the Sizzler. Fireworks, contests, car shows, everything. If you weren’t able to make it down this April, I highly suggest you make your way over there next April just after the Cats win #9.
And there we are, another county down. Let’s grab us some chicken and dumplings at Landmark and hit the hay. We’ll be heading a little further south on our next stop on the county tour, Monroe County!
Remember if you want your county’s favorite hole-in-the-wall restaurant, or cool town event featured, hit me up at [email protected] and we’ll get on here!