Mercer County is in the state of Kentucky. Harrodsburg is the county seat. Close to 22,000 lucky community members call the beautiful place in the Bluegrass Region their home.
The county was named for Hugh Mercer, a fallen Revolutionary War hero. Mercer, a physician and Scottish soldier, fought in the Battle of Princeton in 1777 and died from injuries he received there. He was a friend of George Washington’s and a brigadier general as well.
The county was established in 1785. It was actually form a portion of Lincoln County, Virginia which had originated five years earlier when the Virginia Assembly had separated Kentucky County into three counties: Jefferson, Fayette and Lincoln. The county seat for Kentucky County had been Harrodstown. It was part of the newly formed Mercer County and remained the county seat for it.
Although Kentucky is known for its whiskey (bourbon, mostly), Mercer is a dry county for the most part. Harrodsburg and Pleasant Hill do sell alcohol by the drink though like in establishments. The fact that alcohol is allowed to be sold at all within the county makes it to be considered “moist”.
The area is extremely rich in history. Before the Civil War, a Shaker community thrived in Pleasant Hill which was also called Shakertown at that time. There are over thirty historic buildings from that era that can be seen today.
In the Civil War days, it was heavily divided with some favoring the north and others leaning to the south. Two Union forces were formed, the 19th Regiment Kentucky Volunteer Infantry and the 11th Regiment Kentucky Volunteer Calvary were formed.
Later, the 19th Kentucky Infantry came to be at Camp Harwood. Harrodsburg was the location for a good bit of the Union activity. After the Battle of Perryville where Mercer met his demise, many of the buildings in the area became makeshift hospitals. Despite the Union forces that abound in the area, a good many men served in the Confederate Army too. Sixteen hundred sick and wounded Confederates were captured in Harrodsburg on October 10, 1862. From them on, the town was under martial law until the war’s end.
By 1888, the Louisville Southern Railroad came to Harrodsburg. The railway brought jobs to the area from the time construction began in 1884 on. It is now the Norfolk Southern Railway.
There are many historical place that can be visited. The fifteen acre Old Fort Harrod State Park boasts a reconstructed site celebrating the first settlement of the state. The park is named for the man who headed up a party of early settlers to the area, James Harrod. There are log structures representing the early military frontier life as well as cabins that demonstrate the pioneer life history. A cabin where Abraham Lincoln’s parents were we at is also a feature in the park.
Pleasant Hill is a very popular destination for tourists. It was the home of the Shaker religious activists from 1805 to 1910. There are thirty-four original nineteen century buildings on the 2,800-acre farmland. It is said to be the largest historic community in America of its kind.
Four Roses Bourbon is a popular stop for visitors. The distilling dates back to 1884 when Paul Jones Jr. moved his already thriving business to Louisville. He opened his office on historic Main Street thee and called it Whiskey Row. Just four years later, the trademarked his product as “Four Roses” and declared the production and sales of it went back to 1860. About one hundred years later, Seagrams purchased the plant. Today, distillery tours are available and events can be hosted at the location as well.
A beloved landmark of the county is the High Bridge, a railroad that crosses the breathtaking Kentucky River Palisades. The bridge connects Mercer with Jessamine County. It spans over three under-deck trusses to carry trains to Danville and Lexington. The bridge is a National Civil Engineering Landmark. It was the very first cantilever in the nation.
Devine’s Corn Maze and Pumpkin Patch is one of the most fun attractions in the county. Located in Harrodsburg, the park features a family oriented working farm with tons of entertainment for all. There is a zip line, corn and hay mazes, a petting zoo and a tour of the farm. Produce, crafts and snacks are sold at the location too.
The Big Red Stables gives locals and visitors alike a taste of the importance horses have played in the area throughout its history and that it still enjoys today. The family owned farm is on the Kentucky Horse and Barrel Tour. It offers a guided trail ride in the rolling Bluegrass hills. Riders of all ages are welcome to experience the horseback riding adventure on the smooth Spotted Saddle and Tennessee Walking horse farm.
The Mercer County airport is in Harrodsburg. It is a cultural heritage airport. It is also the only airport in the area.
Mercer County is located at the junction of US 68 and US 127. It is about thirty miles from Lexington. Although it is not a heavily populated area, it is only around two hours from two and a half million people so there is access to most anything.
Mercer County consists of 253 square miles. Four and a half of the area is water. The only two communities in the county are Harrodsburg and Burgin although there are ten unincorporated towns as well. The ghost town of Hilltop is in the county too. The six adjacent counties are: Anderson, Jessamine, Woodford, Garrard, Washington and Boyle. There are over 8,500 households.
Waterways are not lacking in the county. Herrington Lake2,350-acre manmade lake the area. The Salt River, Chaplin River, Deep Creek, Clay Lick Creek, Landing Run, Wilson Creek, Thompson Creek, Cheese Lick, Dry Fork, Dry Branch, Cane Run, Shawnee Run, Cedar Branch, Grapevine Creek and Goose Creek flow through the county too.
Mercer County is a lovely county, rich in history and resources. Those who live there welcome tourists and new residents to their community as well.