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In 1860, Wolfe County was formed from portions of Breathitt, Morgan, Owsley and Powell counties. The county was named in honor of Nathaniel Wolfe, a noted lawyer and member of the Kentucky legislature during 1853-55 and 1859-63. During the Civil War, the Confederate government attempted unsuccessfully to change the county name to Zollicoffer to honor General Felix Zollicoffer who died at the Battle of Mill Springs in Kentucky.

The original boundary of the county as accepted by the General Assembly follows:

Chapter 1326, page 138. Approved March 5, 1860. Be it enacted... That from and after the first day of July, 1860, so much of the counties of Morgan, Breathitt, Owsley, and Powell, as lies within the following boundary, shall be, and the same is hereby, erected into and established a separate and distinct county, to be called the county of Wolfe, viz: - Beginning at the Standing Rock corner, between Owsley, Estill and Powell counties; thence running on a straight line to the mouth of Wolfe-pen Branch, where the same empties into the North fork of Red River, below Powell Roe's old farm; thence on a straight line to where the state road strikes the Morgan line, near the Lathem farm, on the dry ridge, thence with the state road to where it forks on Blackwater creek, near the residence of Allen Day, so as to exclude said Day; thence a straight line to the top of a point (so as to exclude Arch Day) on the divide between Blackwater and Red River; thence with said divide to the divide between Red River and Grassy Creek; thence with said divide, opposite the mouth of Gilmore creek; thence up the point, between Gilmore and Red River, to the Breathitt line; thence with the said Breathitt line to the head of Holley Creek; thence a straight line to the Owsley county line, to where it crosses the North fork of said river, thence down said North fork to the mouth of the Log Shoal branch; thence a straight line to the beginning....

Several boundary changes have occurred since 1860. Wolfe County lost land with Menifee County's formation in 1869 and with Lee County's formation in 1870. The Kentucky General Assembly also changed the boundary over the years:

Wolfe County. Change of County line between Wolfe and Morgan. Acts of 1885-6, Vol. 1, page 1219; April 7, 1886 "Change to include all of the old original farm of Harrison Swango, Sr., owned by him previous to the year 1865; also all of the lands of Arch. Day, R.M. Wilson and Sam Henry Wilson and the farm of S.M. Tyler, in the County of Wolfe."

Wolfe County. Act changing county line between the counties of Breathitt and Wolfe. April 7, 1886; Acts of 1885-6, Vol. 1, page 1219. This Act makes the following change in the line between Breathitt and Wolfe Counties, viz: "So as to include all of the waters of Holly creek in the County of Wolfe."

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