Elijah Combs traveled from Virginia sometime during the warm months in 1795, and built the first house, a temporary “improver’s cabin,” on the North Fork of the Kentucky River. He walked back to Virginia and married Sarah (Sally) Roark. After returning with his bride and two slaves, he built his second house, a two-story log structure close to the river that came to be called by the people the “Old Log Fort.” Court was held in his house for several years. Elijah Combs was the founder of the little village, first officially called Perry Court House when it was named as the county seat of Perry County, the 68th county of Kentucky, established in 1821. Even in early court records the town was referred to as Hazard. By 1854 the post office bore the name Hazard and the town was incorporated as Hazard in 1884. When Perry County was formed founding fathers were veterans of the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 who had come to this location on the North Fork of the Kentucky River where Elijah Combs settled near a salt lick beside the river.
Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry
The name came from the distinguished naval hero of the War of 1812, Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry. Perry was ordered to Erie, Pennsylvania, in March 1813 to build an American fleet for use on Lake Erie against the British. General William Henry Harrison supplied 100 volunteers from Kentucky dressed in fringed deerskin shirts and leggings carrying their famous Long Rifles to reinforce the ships crews. Perry stationed these men in the riggings of the “Lawrence,” Perry's Flag Ship, and the “Niagara,” causing much loss upon the decks of the British Navy and giving control of the lake to the Americans. On September 10, 1813, a first in all of naval history occurred as Perry defeated the British Fleet, and immediately sent a dispatch to General Harrison: "We have met the enemy and they are ours." Hazard grew very slowly in the years following its beginning. By the outbreak of the Civil War almost fifty years later there were about a dozen families in the little settlement. The Civil War brought to Hazard an era of suffering and misery that lasted for generations. There were a few slaves in the mountains, and many of the people at the time favored the Union. During the Civil War the town was subject to guerrilla raids by small bands of outlaws.
Until the railroad extended to Hazard, supplies were shipped on river flatboats from Jackson. The lumber business boomed in the 1880s. After the train entered Hazard in 1912, coal mining surpassed logging. In the 1920s Hazard became the major mining center in the southeastern coalfields. A steadily progressive coal industry continues today. Each year in September Hazard’s coal heritage is celebrated with the Black Gold Festival in downtown Hazard. The City of Hazard and Perry County work closely together to improve the lives of their citizens. Perry County civic organizations which provide additional funding and support to the whole community are Hazard-Perry County Community Ministries, Inc., Rotary, Lions, Kiwanis, Chamber of Commerce, Hazard Women’s Club, and sororities. Fraternal organizations active in Hazard are VFW, Masons, and Daughters of American Revolution. Perry County Tourism Commission and The United Way are active in Perry County. Many of these organizations provide scholarships, and fundraising to make the community a better place in which to live. The Hazard Herald is the legal newspaper. Churches of all faiths are active in Hazard and Perry County.
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As we update this site, more of our history will be added.
After Bobby Davis was tragically killed in 1945 at the end World War II, his father, Lawrence O. Davis, wanted to build a "living memorial" to his son and all the other young men who had also died. He expended his own and additional funds from other citizens of Hazard and Perry County to build a park that when completed was visited by thousands of people every summer.
Be sure to check out one of Hazard's most visited historical sites, HazardKentucky.com! The Early Years pages contain photographs from 1896 to 1929. There are various shots of Main Street when the roads were dirt and most of the buildings were simple wooden structures. There are several views of the old court houses and scenes of the arrival of the first locomotive in 1912. The 1930s - 1940s page covers a period of time when Hazard and Perry County were becoming prosperous due to the growing coal industry. The 1950s - 1960s is well represented here. These pages contain the largest number of photographs. There are several good shots of a crowded Main Street bustling with people, classic cars, and busy shops. A few of these photographs are in color.