Owen County was formed by the Commonwealth of Kentucky by Acts of 1818-1819 Chapter 287 page 702 and approved February 6, 1819. It was formed from the counties of Franklin Scott Gallatin and Pendleton. Hesler (then known as Heslerville) was the first county seat. This became effective April 1, 1819. On November 16, 1820, the legislature passed another act which restored to Franklin County part or all of what was taken from it under the 1819 act. To compensate for this, the legislature took some more land from Gallatin County and gave it to Owen by act dated December 26, 1820. Therefore, Hesler was no longer in the center of the county. Accordingly, on January 15, 1822, the county court ordered that the seat of justice be removed to land owned by Andrew Parker, James Hess, and William H. Forsee. The town Owenton was developed. Court was held at the new county seat on February 11, 1822.
In the 1850’s the town was given the nickname “Sweet Owen”. Sweet Owen is said to have originated with a Kentucky politician who was campaigning in Owen County in 1851. John C. Breckinridge was popular in Kentucky and even more so in Owen County; when running for congressman Breckinridge won his election by 526 votes and he carried Owen by 875 votes. The total number of votes cast exceeded the number of registered voters by 123 votes and the story goes that when Breckinridge heard the news he exclaimed, “Sweet Owen!”
1819 – – – Owen County Kentucky – – – 1969
E.G. Traylor was the General Chairman of the Owen County Sesqui-Centennial Celebration Committee which published a program in July 1969. On the front page of the program Traylor wrote an inspiring article titled Forward…Ever Forward which still applies to Owen County today.
The article reads as follows:
“Owen County has come a long way…from the log cabin to electric-heated homes…from the covered wagon to the jet plane…from the hand plow to the powerful tractors.
The road has never been easy but it has always been clearly marked…its milestones, basic rights on which this County was founded and by which it has lived and grown strong. The right of every man to determine for himself, the course his life shall follow. The right to choose his own work or to build his own business. The right to go as far as his own ability will take him in the direction of his choosing… the right to compete freely with his fellows in the achievement of his objective.
It is these rights that spur each man to create and produce to the limits of his capacity… that prompt each business to give its customers more for less. It is these rights that have made our might.
With PRIDE we look back at our past.
With confidence we look to the future and all that lies ahead. Holding resolutely to a way of life so critically tested, so conclusively proved… we shall continue our forward march to a better life for all. ”
Soon there will be an original print of this complete program on display in the Owen County Historical Museum.