Tennessee Counties
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Tennessee Counties

There are ninety-five counties in the State of Tennessee. The oldest county is Washington County, founded in 1777. The most recently formed county is Chester County (1879)

Clay County, Tennessee

Clay County Education, Geography, and History

Clay County, Tennessee Courthouse

Clay County is a county located in the state of Tennessee. Based on the 2010 census, the population was 7,861. Clay County was formed in 1870 by combining pieces from surrounding Jackson and Overton counties. Its county seat and only incorporated city is Celina. Clay County is named in honor of American statesman Henry Clay, member of the United States Senate from Kentucky and United States Secretary of State in the 19th century.

Etymology - Origin of Clay County Name

Named in honor of Henry Clay (1777-1852), member of the Kentucky state house and senate, US congressman and senator, secretary of state and commissioner for treaty with Great Britain in 1815.


County QuickFacts: CensusBureau Quick Facts

History of Clay County

Created 1870 from Jackson and Overton counties; named in honor of Henry Clay (1777-1852), member of the Kentucky state house and senate, US congressman and senator, secretary of state and commissioner for treaty with Great Britain in 1815.

Clay County was formed in 1870 from Jackson and Overton counties
(Acts of Tennessee 1870 [2nd Extra Session], Chapter 29).

Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture
The Tennessee General Assembly created Clay County on June 16, 1870, from the isolated northern sections of Overton and Jackson Counties. Citizens of the new county believed they would have a better opportunity to participate in self-government in their own county rather than as part of the larger county governments with which they had previously been connected by only a few trails and no roads. The first session of the county court met in Mary Roberts's store in the Butler's Landing community. Celina was chosen as the county seat by a narrow margin. Local craftsman D. L. Dow built the Clay County Courthouse (1872-73), which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

In 1870 Clay County was a dense forest of virgin timber. Freight and manufactured goods came into the county by river or the Great Road, part of a stage road that linked Georgia and Alabama to Cookeville. Bordering on Kentucky, the area was deeply divided during the Civil War, and hard feelings between the ridge dwellers and the river people inhibited economic growth and political development. Some families moved west, but those who remained soon became engaged in harvesting the timber. By 1880 the timber industry in Clay County was big business, and in 1890 the timber harvest produced millions of feet of cut boards at more than twenty sawmills. In addition, lumbermen cut, rafted, and floated logs to Nashville during the spring high water. During the peak of timbering, the county's assessed valuation reached nearly $11 million, and the population topped nine thousand. By 1930 the timber was gone, the land was washed away, and river traffic had been replaced by the automobile. The loss of the timber industry and the Great Depression struck the Upper Cumberland hard. Find more from the Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture: CLAY COUNTY

Geography: Land and Water

As reported by the Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 259 square miles (671 km2), of which, 236 square miles (612 km2) of it is land and 23 square miles (60 km2) of it (8.93%) is water.

The Cumberland River flows through the center of the county from north to south, fed by the Obey River which flows through the city of Celina from its impoundment at the Dale Hollow Reservoir. The reservoir, known as Dale Hollow Lake, inundates much of the eastern part of the county.

Neighboring Counties

Bordering counties are as follows:

  • Monroe County, Kentucky (north)
  • Cumberland County, Kentucky (northeast)
  • Pickett County (east)
  • Overton County (southeast)
  • Jackson County (south)
  • Macon County (west)


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