General County Historical Information

Clay County was organized on May 12, 1871 during Mississippi's Reconstruction Period from parts of Chickasaw, Lowndes, Oktibbeha and Monroe counties. The new county was originally named Colfax, in honor of Schuyler Colfax, Ulysses S. Grant's vice president. After reconstruction rule ended in Mississippi the county was renamed Clay during 1876, in honor of Henry Clay, American statesman, who was secretary of state under John Quincy Adams.

Source:  Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Mississippi, Embracing an Authentic and Comprehensive Account of the Chief Events in the History of the State and a Record of the Lives of Many of the Most Worthy and Illustrious Families and Individuals.  Chicago:  Goodspeed Publishing Company, 1891.  Vol. 1, pp. 269-270.    

Clay county was established May 12, 1871, from Lowndes, Monroe, Chickasaw and Oktibbeha counties.  The name of the county was Colfax until April 10, 1876, when it was changed to Clay, a name more pleasing to the majority of the people.  West Point, the county seat, has twenty-two hundred inhabitants, and is situated on the Mobile & Ohio railroad.  The other towns are Tibbee, Palo Alto and Siloam.  Other towns and postoffices are Abbott, Barrs, Beasley, Belle, Big Springs, Cairo, Cedar Bluff, Griffith, Henryville, Mhoon Valley, Montpelier, Parker, Pheba, Pine Bluff, Robertson, Vinton and Waverly.  The county is bounded north by Chickasaw and Monroe, east by Lowndes, south by Oktibbeha and west by Webster.  The water courses are the Tombigbee, which runs along the eastern border, and in the county are the Tibbee, Line creek, Houlka, Chickatouchy and other streams which flow in a southeasterly direction.
     The lands of this county are generally undulating or leve; soil very fertile, black hummock, prairie and sandy; about one-third open lands and two-thirds timbered and bottom lands.  It produces abundantly cotton, corn, oats, wheat, sorghum, field peas, all the grasses, fruits of all kinds suitable to the climate, and vegetables in great profusion.  The open timber and bottom lands afford fine pasturage for eight months in the year, and switchcane in the creek bottoms for the winter months.  Timber trees are oaks of all kinds, hickory, ash, gum, poplar, chestnut, walnut, beech, maple, etc.  Clay county is one of the best in the state.  The eastern portion is largely prairie, which is very fertile.  The county is well adapted to both stockraising and grain growing, and is settled by a thrifty and progressive people.  It is traversed in nearly every direction by the Mobile & Ohio, Illinois Central and the Georgia Pacific railroads, all intersecting at West Point, the county seat.   This city began its existence on the completion of the Mobile & Ohio railroad through this section a few years prior to the war and was incorporated on November 20, 1858.  The town had previously been cross roads, about half a mile west of the present town, and when the railroad was built business was removed to the present site.  The location is very desirable and healthy, and the city is one of the most flourishing in northeastern Mississippi.  It has an iron foundry, oil mill, compress, brick and tile factory, a wood manufacturing company and a national bank.
     The first meeting of the board of supervisors was held May 17, 1872, and the board consisted of the following named persons:  T. M. Abbott, who was made president; Seth P. Pool, James R. Gilfoy, George Strong and Vincent Petty.  Joseph W. Hicks was first chancery clerk; A. A. Shattuck, sheriff; Scott Sykes, circuit clerk; I. S. Rainey, treasurer; R. W. Miller, assessor; G. A. Watkins, coroner and ranger; A. P. Morrow, surveyor.  Dennis Brennan was the first representative.
     Among the early settler of this county were Hon. F. G. Barry and F. S. White, Fred Beall, J. G. Baptist, Capt. E. S. Ware, Jabez Mann, B. F. Robertson, L. F. Bradshaw and J. H. Shipman.
     The population of Clay county in 1880 was thirteen thousand three hundred and sixty-seven; in 1890, eighteen thousand six hundred and seven.  The colored population in 1880 was twelve thousand one hundred and ten; in 189, thirteen thousand and fifty-four.
     The first newspaper in West Point was the Broad Ax, published by W. Ivie Westbrook, from about 1858 to 1860.  It was a spicy and well-edited paper.  After the war, the West Point Citizen was published, first by J. P. Dancer, afterward by others.  This paper was issued for several years.  About 1877 the Echo was published by Thomas H. Collins, and finally, in 1881, was merged into the Leader, and has since been published under that name by L. T. Carlisle, who also for a short time published, in connection with the Leader, the Farm and Stock Reporter.  About 1879 and 1880 George P. Herndon published the Sunday News.  In about 1883 the Progress was established by Boyd & Henderson, and after a short period, became the West Point New Era, and was issued by J. R. Alenan for a few years.  In January, 1888, John Henderson founded the West Point Forum, which he still publishes, that and the Leader, by L. T. Carlisle, being the only papers published here now.
     The present officials of Clay county are T. W. Davidson and Dr. W. B. Gunn, representatives; J. W. Brady, chancery clerk; W. L. Cromwell, sheriff; R. M. Trotter, circuit clerk; F. M. Howard, treasurer; W. T. Bryan, assessor; M. Redus, coroner and ranger; L. L. Morrow, surveyor; J. A. Stevens, superintendent of education; board of supervisors, W. H. Moore, president; N. H. Howard, George H. Burkitt, F. M. Aycock and H. T. McGee.

The National Register of Historic Places Clay County Inventory page contains interesting information about historic sites in Clay County.

Also see: Lowry & McCardle's 1891 history of Clay County.

Source: Rowland, Dunbar, ed. Mississippi: Comprising Sketches of Counties, Towns, Events, Institutions, and Persons, Arranged in Cyclopedic Form. Atlanta: Southern Historical Publishing, 1907.

Abbott, a post-village of Clay county, on the Chuquatonchee Creek, about ten miles northwest of Westpoint, the nearest railroad, express and banking point. It has a money order post office and is a prosperous little place, having a grist-mill and a cotton ginnery.

Beasley is a post-hamlet in Clay county, 19 miles northwest of Westpoint, the county seat. It has a store, a grist mill, a saw mill and a cotton gin.

Bigsprings, a hamlet in the central part of Clay county, about 15 miles northwest of Westpoint, the county seat. Population in 1900, 68.

Cairo, a post-hamlet in Clay county, 16 miles northwest of Westpoint, the county seat. It has two stores, a sawmill, grist mill, a cotton gin and a church.

Montpelier, a post-village of Clay county, located on Sand creek about 16 miles northwest of Westpoint, the county seat and the nearest banking town. Mantee, on the M.J. & K.C.R.R., 6 miles west is the nearest railroad town. It has a money order postoffice. Population in 1900, 121.

Palo Alto. An extinct village in Chickasaw, now Clay county, which flourished before the War between the States. After the organization of Clay county in 1871, it was absorbed by the new town of Abbott.

Pinebluff, a postoffice in the western part of Clay county, on Chewah creek, about 24 miles from Westpoint, the county seat. It has two stores.

Una, a post-hamlet in the northern part of Clay county, about 22 miles northwest of Westpoint, the county seat, and nearest banking town. Population in 1900, 35.

Waverly, a hamlet in the southeastern part of Clay county, on the Tombigbee river, and a station on the Southern Railway, about 6 miles northwest of Columbus, and 10 miles east of Westpoint, the county seat. It has a church, a saw mill and a girst mill. Population in 1900, 82. It has rural free delivery service from Westpoint.

West Point, the county seat of Clay county, is situated in a fertile and healthful region, at the crossing of the Illinois Central, Mobile & Ohio, and the Southern railways, 16 miles northwest of Columbus. The original town was a little hamlet, about one half a mile west of the present town. When the Mobile & Ohio railroad was completed through this section a few years before the War, 1861-1865, the business of the town moved to the railroad. It was incorporated November 20, 1858. When Colfax county was formed in 1871, it became the county seat, and when the name of the county was changed to Clay it was continued as the county seat, and is now one of the most flourishing towns in northeastern Mississippi. It has about 125 business houses, two good hotels, fitted with all the modern conveniences, and is located within 40 miles of the rich coal fields of Alabama and only 100 miles from where iron is mined. Among its prominent manufacturing enterprises may be mentioned a cotton mill, furniture factory, electric lighting plant, a $75,000 system of water works owned by the city, with fine artesian water, a brick and tile works, an ice factory and soda bottling works, two oil mills, a cotton compress, machine shops, two planning mills, a stove factory, a steam laundry, an artifical stone factory, handle factory, heading factory, and wagon and carriage shops. A street car system is contemplated in the near future. There are four banking institutions, the First National Bank, established in 1883, capital $100,000; the Bank of West Point, established in 1896, capital $50,000; the First Savings Bank established in 1902, capital $25,000, and The Citizens Bank, established in 1905, capital $50,000. There are eight churches, all the principal denominations being represented. It is the seat of the Southern Female College and has two graded schools; also the Mary Holmes school (Presbyterian) for colored girls. The first newspaper was published in West Point was the Broad Ax, published by W. Ivie Westbrook, from about 1858 to 1860. The following newspapers are now published here: The Leader, a Democratic weekly established in 1881, LT. Carlisle, editor and publisher; the Dixie Press, established in 1892 as a Democratic weekly; the Times, established in1899, a Democratic weekly; The West Point Advertiser, a Democratic weekly established in 1906; the Conservative (colored) established in 1902 as a weekly. The country within a radius of ten miles is filled with a thriving population, engaged in growing cotton and grain, and in stock raising. The citys debt in 1906 amounted to $78,000 in 30 and 40 year bonds; its assessed valuation is $1,250,000; taxe rate is 15 mills. The population in 1900 was 3,193, which has materially increased since that date, and in 1906 was estimated at 5,000. The contract for the erection of a fine high school building was let in 1906.

Source: Rowland, Dunbar, ed. Mississippi: Comprising Sketches of Counties, Towns, Events, Institutions, and Persons, Arranged in Cyclopedic Form. Atlanta: Southern Historical Publishing, 1907.

Clay County is a very irregularly shaped district in the northeastern part of the State, and was erected May 12, 1871, during the administration of Governor Alcorn. It marks the southern boundary line of the old Chickasaw Indian territory; and was formed from the counties of Lowndes, Oktibbeha and Chickasaw. The county has a land surface of 399 square miles. Its boundaries were defined by the original act as follows: -- Beginning at a point where the section line running east from the northeast corner of  Section 24, T. 16, R. 7 east intersects the Tombigbee; thence running due west to the northwest corner of Sec. 19, T. 16, R. 6 east; thence due north to the northeast corner of Sec. 1, T. 15, R. 5 east; thence west to the northwest corner of Sec. 6, T. 15, R. 4 east; thence south to the southwest corner of Sec. 19 in same Twp. And Range; thence west to the northwest corner of Sec. 30, T. 15, R. 3 east; thence south to the southwest corner of Sec. 26, T. 20, R. 14 east; thence to the point on Tibbee creek nearest said southeast corner of Sec. 25; thence down the meanderings of said Tibbee creek making said creek the county line, to the county line between Lowndes and Oktibbeha counties; thence south along said line to the southwest corner of Sec. 18, T. 19, R. 16 east; thence east to the southeast corner of Sec. 14, T. 19, R. 16 east, to Catalapa creek; thence down the meanderings of said creek to its junction with the Tombigbee river; thence north, following the meanderings of said river to the point of beginning.
     It was at first named Colfax, for Schuyler Colfax, under carpet bag rule and remained Colfax until the Democrats came into power, when it was changed to Clay. Its early history is that of the counties from which it was carved. It is bounded on the north by Chickasaw and Monroe counties, on the east by Monroe and Lowndes counties, on the south by Lowndes and Oktibbeha counties and on the west by Webster and Chickasaw counties. Its county seat is West Point, a prosperous city of 5,000 inhabitants, located at the junction of three lines of railway the Illinois Central, the Southern, and the Mobile and Ohio. Within easy distance of the Alabama coal fields and possessed of excellent railroad facilities, the city is growing rapidly and manufactures have attained to large proportions. It is classed by the returns of the twelfth census as one of the eleven important manufacturing centers of the State. There are no other large towns in the county, though there are a number of thriving small ones, among which may be mentioned Cedarbluff, Pheba, Montpelier, Abbott, Griffith and Siloam. The Tombigbee river washes a part of its eastern border and the Tibbee, Line, Houlka, Sun, Chewah and Chuquatonchee creeks, tributaries of the Tombigbee, afford it ample water. The three lines of railway above mentioned give the county excellent shipping facilities and many northern settlers are now coming into the region.
     The surface of the county is generally undulating and level with considerable open timber and fertile bottom lands. The timber trees consist of all kinds of oaks, hickory, ash, gum, poplar, chestnut, walnut, beech and maple. Artesian water has been found in various parts of the county. The soil is rich, being largely of the black prairie and sandy varieties and will produce cotton, corn, oats, wheat, sorghum, field peas, and grasses in great abundance, as well as all kinds of fruits and vegetables grown in this climate. Alfalfa grown in Clay county by B.H. Strong was awarded the gold medal at the Worlds Fair in St. Louis. Many northern people have embarked extensively in live stock raising, especially the breeding of cattle and working horses, and have found it very profitable. F.M. Abbott, formerly of New York State, located the village of Abbott, and has made a specialty of breeding short horn cattle. In 1906 he shipped 2 cars of 3 year olds which averaged over 1,500 lbs. per head. Numerous steam mills and manufacturing plants have been established within the last few years, and the region is growing rapidly in wealth and importance. It now has 111,929 acres under cultivation and as soon as the factories are established, which are needed to utilize its wealth of raw materials, the county bids fair to be one of the most prosperous in the State.
     The twelfth census of the United States shows that there were 2,815 farms in the county, embracing 198,812 acres; 111,929 of which were under cultivation; the total value of the same was $1,595,120 exclusive of buildings; the value of the buildings was given at $419,040 and the total value of farm products was $567,652. The statistics for manufactures in 1900 are especially interesting and are as follows Total number of establishments 70, capital invested in manufacture $268,201, wages paid $65,213, cost of materials used $230,387, and total value of products $440,035. The total assessed valuation of real and personal property in the county in 1905 was $2,677,520 and in 1906 it was $2,923,135, which shows an increase during the year of $245,615. The population of the county in 1900 was whites 5,927, colored 13,636, a total of 19,563 and an increase over 1890 of 956. In 1906 the estimated population was 22,000.


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