catlettsburg photo


Center Street
Catlettsburg KY 41129

Catlettsburg, the seat of Boyd County, is located southeast of Ashland on U.S. 23 and U.S. 60, at the confluence of the Ohio and Big Sandy rivers in northeastern Kentucky. The city was named for early settlers Alexander Catlett and his son Horatio, who arrived from Virginia in 1798. The town grew up around Horatio Catlett's tavern, which existed from 1808 to 1833. Because of its river location, the city became an active trading post and a steamboat landing, known as the Mouth of Sandy. The town was laid out by James Wilson Fry in 1849 and incorporated on February 11, 1858. Two years later it became the seat of newly organized Boyd County . The limestone courthouse is of Beaux Arts design. Catlettsburg thrived during the steamboat era as the timber industry prospered and many related businesses moved in. Wharves were built along the shore for loading boats. The timber industry started around 1840 and peaked around 1900, when the city was one of the largest hardwood timber markets in the world. Virgin timber from eastern Kentucky was logged, pulled by oxen to creeks, and floated to the Big Sandy River and on to the Ohio in giant timber rafts. Of the several hotels, the Alger House (1879) was regarded as the finest. A race track (1890) and the Morse Opera House (1878) provided recreation for the influx of people. Front Street had twenty-one saloons and a restaurant. Rail transportation began with the arrival of the Big Sandy Valley Railroad in 1873; the Chatteroi Railway Company in 1879; and the Elizabethtown, Lexington & Big Sandy Valley Railway Company in 1879. The Chesapeake & Ohio, which arrived in 1911, tore down many city landmarks after it acquired right of way in 1929. Streetcars came in 1894, and the Interstate Camden Railway appeared in 1903. A fire on July 22, 1878, destroyed several of the businesses and homes in downtown Catlettsburg, at a cost of $300,000. Other fires, in 1884, 1919, and 1932, destroyed many businesses. Major floods occurred in 1884, 1913, 1937, and 1948. During the Civil War, Gen. James A. Garfield with the Union 42d Division located briefly in Catlettsburg in December 1861. In 1902 a U.S. district court was established there and the federal courthouse was built in 1911. Federal court was held there until 1985, when it was moved to Ashland. Two U.S. senators, George Brown Martin (1918-19) and Ben Mitchell Williamson (1930-31); and one U.S. representative, Laban Theodore Moore (1859-61), lived for a time in the city. Mary Eliott Flanery , first woman legislator in Kentucky (1922-23), also lived there.  The city is on an Amtrak route and is one of the few Kentucky cities with an active rail passenger depot.