Beattyville, Kentucky
Lee County Courthouse in Beattyville
Lee County Courthouse in Beattyville
Location in Lee County, Kentucky
Location in Lee County, Kentucky
Coordinates: 37°34′17″N 83°42′24″W / 37.57139°N 83.70667°W / 37.57139; -83.70667
CountryUnited States
 • Total2.30 sq mi (5.97 km2)
 • Land2.29 sq mi (5.94 km2)
 • Water0.01 sq mi (0.02 km2)
669 ft (204 m)
 • Total2,176
 • Estimate 
2,146 Decrease
 • Density950/sq mi (360/km2)
Time zoneUTC-5 (Eastern (EST))
 • Summer (DST)UTC-4 (EDT)
ZIP code
Area code606
FIPS code21-04546
GNIS feature ID0510486

Beattyville is a home rule class city[3] in, and the county seat of,[4] Lee County, Kentucky, United States. The city was formally established by the state assembly as "Beatty" in 1851 and incorporated in 1872.[5] It was named for Samuel Beatty, a pioneer settler.[6] The population was 1,307 at the 2010 census[7] and an estimated 1,206 in 2018.[8]


Beattyville is in central Lee County at the confluence of the North and South Forks of the Kentucky River, a tributary of the Ohio River in central Appalachia.

Kentucky Route 11 passes through the city, crossing the North and South Forks of the Kentucky on separate bridges. The highway leads north 30 miles (48 km) to Stanton and south 45 miles (72 km) to Manchester. Kentucky Route 52 joins KY 11 to cross the North Fork of the Kentucky River but leads northwest 22 miles (35 km) to Irvine and east 24 miles (39 km) to Jackson.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 2.3 square miles (6.0 km2), of which 0.01 square miles (0.02 km2), or 0.41%, are water.[9]


The climate in this area is characterized by hot, humid summers and generally mild to cool winters. According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Beattyville has a humid subtropical climate, abbreviated "Cfa" on climate maps.[10]


Historical population
2022 (est.)2,146[11]−1.4%
U.S. Decennial Census[12]

As of the census[13] of 2000, there were 1,193 people, 509 households, and 294 families residing in the city. The population density was 599.6 inhabitants per square mile (231.5/km2). There were 561 housing units at an average density of 282.0 per square mile (108.9/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 98.99% White, 0.42% African American, 0.42% Asian, and 0.17% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.25% of the population.

There were 509 households, out of which 30.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 31.8% were married couples living together, 23.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 42.2% were non-families. 39.7% of all households were made up of individuals, and 18.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.11 and the average family size was 2.82.

In the city, the population was spread out, with 23.6% under the age of 18, 9.3% from 18 to 24, 22.3% from 25 to 44, 20.1% from 45 to 64, and 24.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females, there were 69.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 63.3 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $12,336, and the median income for a family was $21,181. Males had a median income of $28,125 versus $16,250 for females. The per capita income for the city was $13,850. About 39.1% of families and 41.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 48.7% of those under age 18 and 33.0% of those age 65 or over.

In 2010, Beattyville had the third-lowest median household income of all places in the United States with a population over 1,000.[14] It was the poorest majority white town.[15]


Beattyville is served by the Lee County School District. Schools serving Beattyville include:

There is also a Board of Education and Central Office Complex building. The schools have consistently ranked in the top half of all the schools in the state.[citation needed]

The Lee County Board of Education has announced plans to close Beattyville Elementary and transfer the students to Southside Elementary. To accommodate the influx of students, an expansion of the facilities at Southside will be required. The decision was not popular with residents of the community The Board of Education exhausted its bonding capacity to fund the addition to Southside, so it proposed a tax increase in 2013 to fund other repairs at other facilities. Residents of the county signed a petition to place the tax increase on the ballot. The school board decided to delay the implementation of the tax until 2014 so as not to have to pay approximately $20,000 to fund a special election. The school board passed the tax in 2014 and again, a petition was filed placing the matter on the ballot for the fall 2014 general election. The proposed tax increase was defeated by a large margin at the polls.[citation needed]

Two private schools serve the area as well: Beattyville Christian Academy and Grace Baptist Academy.

Higher education

There are no higher education opportunities in Beattyville or Lee County. A number of technical colleges and universities are located within a 60-mile (100 km) drive.[16]

Public library

Beattyville has a lending library, the Lee County Public Library.[17]


The town's economy used to be based on coal mining, but this industry has pulled out of the area.

In the 21st century, major employers in Beattyville and Lee County include:

The Lee Adjustment Center was constructed here and operated by Corrections Corporation of America as a private, for-profit, medium security prison, with a capacity of 800 inmates. The county hoped to provide jobs for local people at the prison. CCA had contracts with the states of Kentucky and Vermont to house prisoners here. Vermont prisoners rioted in 2004 and were joined by Kentucky prisoners. Kentucky removed its last inmates in 2010, and ended its contract with a CCA in 2013.[18] Vermont removed its inmates in 2015. In November 2017, due to overcrowding at state owned facilities, the Kentucky Department of Corrections signed a new contract allowing CCA, now known as CoreCivic, to reactivate the vacant prison. These inmates would be transferred from the Kentucky State Reformatory in LaGrange.[19] The prison reopened and began accepting inmates in March 2018.[20]

Woolly Worm Festival

Pyrrharctia isabella is the scientific name of the "woolly worm" celebrated in the festival.

Since 1988, during the third weekend after the first Monday of October, the Main Street of Beattyville is closed to traffic for the annual Woolly Worm Festival. It operates for three days: Friday-"Opening Day", Saturday-"Parade Day", and Sunday-"Closing Day" (which also features a large car show).[21][22][23]

The name "woolly worm" refers to the woolly bear caterpillar. The official mascot, "Woolly the Woolly Worm", is used as an image on some local merchandise and flyers. A round hay bale caricature of him stands beside the welcome sign to Beattyville. The festival is the outgrowth of a series of stories by Beattyville native Rosemary Kilduff (wife of Malcolm Kilduff) that tracked the predictions of winter weather based on local folklore. The severity of upcoming winter weather was said to be foretold by the relative proportions of black to brown coloration of the caterpillars. Kilduff penned columns in the local newspaper in the 1980s that collected woolly worm sightings by local residents.

During the festival, numerous musicians perform almost constantly on one of two stages, and dozens of booths offer a wide variety of merchandise and food. Helicopter tours of Beattyville and Lee County are available. The "Woolly Worm Races" are won by coaxing one of these "Hairy Caterpillars" to the top of a string. The first one to reach the top wins, with the only rule being "No Touching"; there is usually a cash prize for the winner.

The Woolly Worm Festival continues as a popular event attracting numerous tourists. Beattyville is a few minutes from Natural Bridge State Resort Park, another tourist destination.

Public services

The Beattyville City Police Department serves the city, and the Beattyville/Lee County Volunteer Fire Department covers the city and county. Emergency medical services are provided through a combined city-county dispatch center on River Drive. Beattyville Waterworks and Beattyville Sewer are also located in the city hall building on Main Street.


View of Beattyville from Happy Top Park

Beattyville has no hospital. Nearby facilities are in Irvine (Marcum and Wallace Memorial Hospital), Jackson (Kentucky River Medical Center), Winchester (Clark Regional Medical Center), Richmond (Baptist Health Richmond), Hazard (Hazard Appalachian Regional Medical Center), Manchester (Manchester Memorial Hospital), and several Lexington area hospitals.

Emergency medical services for Beattyville are provided by the Lee County Ambulance Service; they provide 24/7 Advanced Life Support and Basic Life Support emergency services to all citizens and visitors of Lee County. They transport patients primarily to Marcum and Wallace Memorial Hospital and KY River Medical Center, as well as providing non-emergency transportation services and a wheelchair transport van.


Beattyville is served by Kentucky Utilities, while much of Lee County is served by Jackson Energy, based in McKee, Kentucky, that serves south-central Kentucky. Licking Valley RECC serves Northern Lee County. Natural Gas is served by Columbia Gas of Kentucky and Delta Natural Gas Company. Two water services exist, Beattyville Water Works serves the city and most of the county, and Southside Water Association serves the southern and east parts of Lee County.


The television and radio station WLJC-TV/DT is headquartered in Beattyville. WLJC stands for Wonderful Lord Jesus Christ, and it is a Christian programming channel. Station coverage extends north to Georgetown; west to Bardstown; south to Whitley City; and east to Pikeville. The station is owned by Hour of Harvest, Inc.[24]


  1. ^ "2020 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved March 18, 2022.
  2. ^ "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places in Kentucky: April 1, 2020 to July 1, 2022". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved May 26, 2023.
  3. ^ "Summary and Reference Guide to House Bill 331 City Classification Reform" (PDF). Kentucky League of Cities. Retrieved December 30, 2014.
  4. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Archived from the original on July 12, 2012. Retrieved June 7, 2011.
  5. ^ Commonwealth of Kentucky. Office of the Secretary of State. Land Office. "Beattyville, Kentucky". Accessed 15 July 2013.
  6. ^ Collins, Lewis (1877). History of Kentucky. p. 461. ISBN 9780722249208.
  7. ^ "Total Population: 2010 Census DEC Summary File 1 (P1), Beattyville city, Kentucky". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved February 7, 2020.
  8. ^ "Population and Housing Unit Estimates". Retrieved February 2, 2020.
  9. ^ "U.S. Gazetteer Files: 2019: Places: Kentucky". U.S. Census Bureau Geography Division. Retrieved February 7, 2020.
  10. ^ Climate Summary for Beattyville, Kentucky
  11. ^ "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places in Kentucky: April 1, 2020 to July 1, 2022". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved May 26, 2023.
  12. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  13. ^ "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
  14. ^ "US Census". Archived from the original on February 12, 2020. Retrieved January 18, 2014.
  15. ^ McGreal, Chris (November 12, 2015). "America's poorest white town: abandoned by coal, swallowed by drugs". The Guardian. Retrieved November 15, 2015.
  16. ^ "Beattyville, Lee County – Community Profile". Retrieved November 12, 2015.
  17. ^ "Kentucky Public Library Directory". Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives. Archived from the original on January 11, 2019. Retrieved June 5, 2019.
  18. ^ Brett Barrouquere, "Kentucky pulls inmates out of privately run prison", Business Week, June 22, 2010. Retrieved 6 October 2015.
  19. ^ "Lee County prison to reopen". WYMT. November 16, 2017. Archived from the original on September 12, 2018. Retrieved March 7, 2021.
  20. ^ "Lee Adjustment Center Reactivation Brings Big Opportunity to Kentucky Town". CoreCivic. March 27, 2018. Archived from the original on April 24, 2018. Retrieved March 7, 2021.
  21. ^ Staff, WLWT Digital (October 24, 2019). "Kentucky's prognosticating woolly worm to give its winter forecast". WLWT.
  22. ^ "Festivals and Events | Welcome to the City of Beattyville, Kentucky".
  23. ^ "Woolly Worm Festival". Beattyville/Lee County Tourism.
  24. ^ "About Us - WLJC - Margaret Drake - Hour of Harvest - Beattyville".