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In 2007 Barren County was named the "Best Place to Live in Rural America" by Progressive Farmer Magazine.
Barren County was established in 1798 from land taken from Green County and Warren County. Six courthouses have served the county throughout its history, the first built of logs.
Barren County, like most of south central Kentucky, was settled by the Scots-Irish, and still bears many cultural aspects that trace back to that heritage. The Scottish heritage is the most evident, as indicated by the name of the county seat, which is named for Glasgow, Scotland, and is celebrated annually with the Glasgow Highland Games, one of three highland games held each year in Kentucky.
Barren was a prohibition or dry county, until voters overturned that in September 2016. Prior to that, there were two exceptions:
Cave City, which voted in 2005 to become "moist" (selling only alcohol by the drink in restaurants of a certain minimum size (100 in this case) and which derive 70% or more of their revenue from food), and later voted in 2014 to approve full package sales.
Glasgow, which approved liquor by the drink under the same restrictions on November 6, 2007, after three previous elections to allow full alcohol sales in the city being soundly defeated.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 500 square miles (1,300 km2), of which 488 square miles (1,260 km2) is land and 12 square miles (31 km2) (2.5%) is water.
There were 15,346 households, out of which 31.70% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 58.30% were married couples living together, 9.80% had a female householder with no husband present, and 28.70% were non-families. 25.60% of all households were made up of individuals, and 11.60% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.44 and the average family size was 2.91.
The age distribution was 24.20% under the age of 18, 8.20% from 18 to 24, 28.80% from 25 to 44, 23.80% from 45 to 64, and 15.00% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females, there were 92.70 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 89.30 males.
The median income for a household in the county was $31,240, and the median income for a family was $37,231. Males had a median income of $29,860 versus $21,208 for females. The per capita income for the county was $16,816. About 11.80% of families and 15.60% of the population were below the poverty line, including 20.30% of those under age 18 and 19.10% of those age 65 or over.
Barren County is primarily rural in nature, with agriculture as the primary industry. Glasgow, the county seat, has numerous manufacturing facilities, and is also a medical and retail hub for the area. Cave City is also a popular lodging area for tourists visiting nearby Mammoth Cave National Park.
Like Kentucky and most of the counties in the State the Democratic Party has the most voters in the County. Even though the county hasn't voted for the Democratic Presidential Candidate since 1992 (By less than 2%), 51.57% of the voters are registered to the Democratic party and 41.73% are registered Republicans.
Barren County Voter Registration & Party Enrollment as of December 18, 2017
The county is home to all or part of three school districts:
Most of the county is served by the Barren County Schools, which includes Barren County High School and Middle School in Glasgow, and seven elementary schools throughout the county, many of which were formerly also high schools before they were consolidated into Barren County High in the early 1970s.
The Glasgow Independent Schools serve the city of Glasgow proper, with small areas of overlap outside the city limits. The district includes Glasgow High School, Glasgow Middle School and two elementary schools. In addition, the Glasgow and Caverna (see below) districts jointly operate an alternative school located in the Glasgow district for "at-risk" children in middle and high school. Barren County High and Middle Schools, although operated by the county district, are actually located within the boundaries of the Glasgow district.
The Caverna Independent Schools take in Cave City and surrounding northwest Barren County, as well as Horse Cave and the southwest corner of neighboring Hart County. It is served by Caverna High School, Caverna Middle School and Caverna Elementary School, all located between Cave City and Horse Cave. The high school is on the Hart County side of the line, while the elementary and middle schools share a campus on the Barren County side. The district is one of only a handful in the United States which is located in more than one county. One of the other districts with this distinction is in Kentucky--specifically the Corbin Independent School District, serving a single city split by a county line.
Railroad service is provided by CSX Transportation, whose former Louisville and Nashville Railroad main line passes through Cave City and Park City. The Glasgow Railway Company is a short line which owns a branch from Park City (which was formerly called Glasgow Junction) to Glasgow; the line is serviced via an operating lease by CSX.
Dakota Elmore Realty and Auction Co. Owner-Dakota Elmore
Cave City's main industry in Barren County's economy is tourism, thanks to its proximity to Mammoth Cave National Park, which is one of the top ten most visited attractions in Kentucky. A number of motels and restaurants are located at the interchange of Interstate 65 and state routes 70 and 90, which cater to tourists visiting the area or just passing through, thereby making Cave City, and much of northwest Barren County a tourism hot-spot. The city operates a small convention center that is popular with church groups and other family-related organizations, mainly because of the area's lack of crime and abundance of tourist attractions. Cave City has long been a gateway to Mammoth Cave; in the era of passenger rail travel, trains of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad would discharge tourists there, who would then be shuttled to the cave. The agricultural industry is also a big factor in the area's economy.
For more information, please visit the Barren County Economic Authority's website: www.BarrenCoEa.com
^"Glasgow Independent Schools map". Kentucky Department of Revenue. 1996. Archived from the original(PDF) on 2008-04-10. Retrieved . As of 2008, Barren County High is still at the location indicated on the map (look in the southern part of the city, near the Cumberland Parkway). Although Barren County Middle is not listed on this map, it is located on the same street as the high school, as indicated at the official Barren County Schools website.