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Somerset’s History

What is now Somerset, Kentucky was first settled in 1798 by Thomas Hansford and several Jaspers. It was so named because those settlers were from Somerset County, New Jersey. The City of Somerset was incorporated February 17, 1887. Somerset was established as the county seat town in 1802. City trustees were elected in 1802 and $1,000. raised by popular subscription was used to buy a 40 acre tract from William Dodson. The tract includes the present Fountain Square. Main Street divided the tract in half, and the court house stands on part of the original plot.

The first building used as a city hall and court house stood on the site of the original residence of Col. W.B. Gragg. The city paid a carpenter $23.00 to construct the log cabin used.  The first jail , also a log cabin stood on the site of the First National Bank until 1835 when the trustees decided larger quarters were needed and a jail was built on the corner of West Mt. Vernon and Vine streets. A court house built on the site of the present court house was destroyed by fire in January 1871. A new court house was completed in 1874 at the cost of $25,000. The architecture and clock tower was an absolute marvel for it’s day. The original clock stands near the fountain square today.

Flat Lick Baptist Church was established in 1799. The first passenger train arrived here in 1877. The first fire department was adopted by ordinance on January 28, 1908 for a horse and wagon fire department with volunteer firemen. It was said that the horse and buggy moved too slowly, and  the hose cart, pulled by the volunteers , was used more often. The town pump was located on the square.

In 1870 Somerset contained a courthouse, jail, clerks office, six churches, an excellent school (Masonic College), seven stores, one hat shop, one drug store, and three hotels. Six lawyers and five physicians had offices in Somerset.

Jesse James and his gang was said to have came to Somerset from Mt. Vernon with the intention of robbing the First National Bank but were frightened away when they saw a number of young men, armed with shot guns, standing around the square. The youths had gathered on the square to go bird hunting and knew nothing about the plans of Jesse James. The gang went on to Columbia and held up a bank there.

Somerset is situated on the northeastern edge of Lake Cumberland. Somerset is 76 miles south of Lexington, Kentucky; 129 northwest of Knoxville, Tennessee; and 128 miles southeast of Louisville, Kentucky. Somerset has a population of 11,196. City of Somerset covers a land area of 8 square miles.

Pulaski County which covers a land area of 653 square miles, is located in southern Kentucky. The county has a population of 54,570. Pulaski County was created in 1798 from parts of Lincoln and Green counties. The County was named for Casimir Pulaski, a Polish nobleman who was born in Warka, Poland March 4, 1747. He died from wounds received in the Battle of Savannah, Georgia in the revolution on October 11, 1779. He was known as the “Father of the American Cavalry” and served for a time on General George Washington’s staff. The population in 1800 was 3,161, in 1850 14,196, in 1900 31,296, and in 1950 38,591.

Somerset annual Mean temperature (F) – 59.90, Mean annual rainfall (inches) – 47.29, Mean annual snowfall (inches) -12.60, Average Elevation 974 feet.