The county was created in 1856 from parts of Fleming and Morgan counties and named after John Rowan, who represented Kentucky in the House of Representatives and the Senate. Its county seat is Morehead. In some interesting history, it is believed that Rowan County was first explored by those of European descent in 1773 by a party of surveyors from Pennsylvania. The first settlement was established in Farmers, which was a town about 10 miles west of Morehead. With a population count of 23,333 residents, the county has a total area of 286 square miles.