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Historical Resources

The History of Carlisle and Nicholas County:

A Look into Our Rich Past

Image by Cristina Gottardi

For Genealogy

Genealogical Research is available at the Nicholas County Public Library. The Historical Society Board voted in 2015 to move all the genealogical resources to the Nicholas County Library. Contact Peggy Gilkerson for information regarding research. We also have a small amount of materials located in the library of the Neal Welcome Center.

For Researchers

The Historical Society has hardbound copies of the Carlisle Mercury newspaper issues from 1914-1992 available for research. Other requests for research of Carlisle and Nicholas County History can be made by special request and appointment by contacting the museum and requesting materials.

For Educators

Discovery Tours for children are available during museum hours at the Neal Center. Other instructional opportunities include the Veterans Day “Windows of War Exhibit,” which has over 300 students attend each year to learn the history of Veterans from the Civil War to the present day.


We hosted a Smithsonian exhibit, Hometown Teams, in the summer of 2017, which featured memorabilia from local school sports teams. Almost 2,000 visitors toured the exhibit and many people were nostalgic upon seeing their teams' memorabilia in the museum. We also have several pop-up museums located around the courthouse.


Other collections of note include a Jockey Museum (highlighting the history of Jockey International in Carlisle, KY), a Veteran’s display, and a quilt museum.


We can also work with you to create lesson plans for your children that go along with Common Core requirements.

Public Records

The Office of the County Clerk, located at Nicholas County Courthouses, houses resources including:

  • Deeds, wills, and estate settlements

  • Marriages and early marriage bonds from early 1800's to 1970's

  • School census records, 1895-1930's

  • Nicholas County census records, 1810-1930's

  • Some information on adjoining counties


Copies of document pages can be requested by mail at a cost of $1.00 a page or $3.00 for 5 pages Contact: Office of the County Clerk Nicholas County Courthouse PO Box 227 Carlisle KY 40311 (859) 289-3730

Written Records & Exhibits

Image by Kenny Orr


Carlisle Cemetery

The oldest section of the Carlisle Cemetery lies adjacent to the cemetery's present location on West Main Street. According to Perrin's History of Nicholas County, the land was part of General (later Governor) Thomas Metcalfe's farm. In 1821 a small boy, Willie Smedley, died accidentally, having pulled a coffee pot full of boiling coffee over his head. The grieving family, wanting to have the child's burial place close to their home, secured Metcalfe's permission to use that portion of his land. Later, the City of Carlisle acquired the land for a cemetery.

The newer section of the cemetery came gradually into use in the 1860's. It is estimated that about 10,000 people now lie there. A War Memorial near the entrance to the cemetery honors county service personnel from the First World War and subsequent conflicts.


The cemetery office, near the back of the property, is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. The telephone number is (859) 289-7387. The gate is open between 6:30 a.m. and 8 p.m. during daylight savings time, and from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. the rest of the year.

Henryville (African American) Cemetery

At one point Henryville was a good size town in Nicholas County, with over 300 people, and the Henryville Cemetery holds 639 grave sites. Over the years people died and others moved away, until there were few people left to keep the cemetery cleared.  Recently, efforts have been made to preserve the history of the of the cemetery. Reverend Ernie Carmicle, who served from 2003 – 2008 at Carlisle United Methodist, did a lot of research about the Henryville Cemetery, grave sites and people buried there. The records he created are available to view at the Nicholas County Library. 


To date 36 grave stones that had fallen over have been re-set with new poured foundations. Local Funeral Director Brent Gaunce has been a big supporter of the project, and shared his expertise on how to mend broken grave stones and level them so they can be resurrected. 

The Cemetery holds a lot of history for Nicholas County that is well worth these preservation efforts. There are slaves buried there who died in the 1880’s, and sixteen Civic War veterans along with veterans from WWI, WWI, the Korean war and Vietnam. According to records, the youngest soldier to enlist in the civil war was from Carlisle and is buried at the Henryville Cemetery.  Talbert Boyd was born in 1850 and joined the Army in 1864 at the age of 14.  He served in the 100th US Colored Infantry; a unit that fought in the Battle of Nashville in 1865.


The oldest man buried in the cemetery is George Wesley, born in 1828, died 1935.  The oldest woman was Dicey Wilson born in 1807, died 1920.  The oldest Civil War soldier was Levi Riggs, born 1818, died 1920.  Several people died and were buried after influenza epidemics in 1904 and 1920.


Mr. Gaunce also helps with burials at the newer section of the Henryville Cemetery, which is still in use today. Efforts are under way to get plots laid out in the new area.  Eleven graves are there so far, all neatly lined up.  About 350 or so plots are available in the three acre lot that runs over to Spring Valley Road.


The group's future plans include continuing fund raising to eventually add a chapel and parking lot to the site, and to clear overgrown areas adjacent to the cemetery.


The CME Church each year has a Homecoming the last weekend in September to celebrate Old Land Mark Days.  The project to revitalize Henryville's cemetery is a part of the effort to bring former Nicholas County residents back to visit family grave sites, and perhaps rediscover the things that make Carlisle a wonderful place to live. 

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