The county was formed by act of the Kentucky legislature in 1854 from portions of surrounding Daviess, Ohio, and Muhlenberg Counties, and was named for Judge Alney McLean, founder of Greenville, the county seat of Muhlenberg County.
McLean County's county seat is at Calhoun
The county has four incorporated cities:
* Calhoun, population 837, sits on the north bank of Green River in the central area of the county and is the seat of government.
* Livermore, the largest community in McLean County with a population 1,482, lies in the eastern part of the county at the scenic confluence of Rough and Green Rivers. Livermore's bridge is noteworthy, as it begins in McLean County, crosses the Rough River, passes over and has a pylon on a sliver of Ohio County territory, crosses Green River, then ends back in McLean County.
The two remaining cities, Sacramento and Island, are situated in the south of the county.
* Sacramento is home to the annual Battle of Sacramento Civil War Reenactment, the largest tourist event in the county, and has a population of 517.
* Island is noted for its annual Wooden Bridge Festival and has a population of 435.
McLean County has two other sizable, but unincorporated, towns.
* Beech Grove, The larger of the two, is situated in the hills of the county panhandle.
* Rumsey is a historic community that lies across from Calhoun on the south bank of Green River.
Other notable hamlets in the county include:
Comer, Congleton, Wrightsburg, Elba, Poverty, Cleopatra, Lemon, Wyman, Pack, Semiway, Poplar Grove, Guffie, Buel, Nuckols, Livia, Glenville, and Buttonsberry.
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