“Hard times don’t create heroes. It is during the
hard times when the ‘hero’ within us is revealed.”
-Governor Bob Riley
It could easily be said that Clay County has “heroes” living within its borders. There are many hard-working individuals that call Clay County home. Among these people are cabinet shop workers, chicken plant workers, farmers, and other blue-collar workers. These individuals have difficult times like anyone else, but they know how to withstand the hardships and find the heroes within themselves that native of the county, Governor Bob Riley states above.
Clay County was established on December 7, 1866 and created on December 26th of that same year. Territories from the surrounding counties of Talladega and Randolph Counties were used in this making. Clay County got its name from the Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky. The population is a little over 14,000. It should also be noted that Clay County is one of the few remaining “dry” counties in the state, meaning the sale of alcoholic bevarages within its borders is prohibited.
Clay County is divided into six cities/towns: Ashland, Lineville, Millerville, Cragford, Delta, and Hollins.
Ashland, the city of friends, serves as the county seat. The original courthouse was built in 1866 which burned and was rebuilt in 1878. In 1906 the county saw the need for a bigger courthouse and built the one still in use today. Ashland is the highest elevated county seat in Alabama.
Lineville, the largest city in the county was named for being on the line of Talladega and Randolph counties before the county creation in 1886. It is known as the scenic crossroads of East Alabama noted by the beautiful Cheaha Mountains that partially lies in Lineville.
After reading an article entitled “Thar’s Gold in Them Thar Clay County Hills” written by local historian Don East, I discovered that Clay County is known to historians as part of the original Alabama gold discovery in 1830 along with other surrounding counties. The article went on to explain the discovery of gold in this part of the state led President Andrew Jackson to put the Indian Removal Act and Treaty of Cusseta into action sooner than planned. Georgia prospectors wanted this action so they could search Indian territories for gold, and gold they did find. Gold is the reason the towns of Lineville and Cragford were formed. Today there is still remnants of old time gold mines at the Alabama Gold Camp in Cragford.
Don East also writes that there were 60 original graphite mines in the state of Alabama, most of which were in Clay County. In fact, Alabama’s first graphite mine, Allen Graphite, opened in Ashland in 1899. It was noted at this time that Ashland would likely be more prosperous than even Birmingham due to the high, quick growth the graphite mine brought on. However, when WWI ended the market for graphite dropped and instead graphite users changed to cheaper foreign graphite imports thus ending the industry in Ashland.
To sports fans Clay Bowl is a significant part of the county. The Clay Bowl is a high school football rivalry where the Clay County Panthers challenge against the Lineville Aggies. The week before this Friday night event is often filled with friends from the neighboring schools quarreling over who the better team is all in good fun although it has often times led to more drastic things such as school suspensions for those who carry the bickering a bit too far. Although Lineville has the most wins since the rival began in 1922, Clay County has the longest winning streak at 7 games and going. Clay Bowl games have many times been playoff games as both schools are often noted as runners for the state championship. In fact, the two schools put together make Clay County the county in Alabama with the most 2A and 3A state championships. Plans to consolidate the two schools in the near future will end this long sought rivalry, but I believe many of the rival feelings will long remain.
In the middle of a rural farm with 11 acres of ponds sits a rough pine lumber cabin that many travel long distances just to have home cooked catfish. This treasure of a restaurant is known as Red’s Catfish Cabin. It was started by Mr. Elbert “Red” Kennedy, a lifelong farmer, who was looking for more ways to benefit his catfish stock. He had the idea to build a restaurant with wood straight from his farm and offer a down home, country atmosphere where family and friends could come together Thursday through Sunday and share a wonderful meal of catfish (which is #55 on the list of 100 Dishes to Eat in Alabama Before You Die), fries, hush puppies, onion rings, and many other delicious foods. His intention was to only sale catfish from his own pond, but as early as his first week of business it became apparent he would need outside sources of catfish in addition to his to satisfy his customers that kept coming back for more. On average 1,200 pounds of catfish are consumed at Red’s Catfish Cabin in one week and more than 1,000 people sit down to a meal.
Not too long ago, people from all over East Central Alabama traveled to Millerville, Alabama, one of the smaller towns in Clay County to see a lady known as Mrs. Rena Teel. Mrs. Teel was a known soothsayer. It was her routine to help her clients find misplaced possessions or wayward livestock. She even told the occasional fortune to those curious and brave enough to ask. During her lifetime she located missing children, solved crimes, discovered bodies, and even once it is believed she prevented a murder.
The major agricultural products of Clay County according to the Alabama Cooperative Extension are broilers, cattle, and forest products. The main crops of the area are ornamental plants, fruits, vegetables, and Christmas trees. For other Clay County agriculture statistics visit ALFA Farmers Federation.
Places and things to see in Clay County:
- TSALAGI trails
- Cheaha Mountain
- Doc Hilt Trails
- Alabama Gold Camp
- Lineville Memorial Park
- Clay County Historic Courthouse
- Lake Wedowee
- The Historic Ashland Theatre
- Underwater bridge at Lake Gerald in Delta, Alabama
Hauntings of Clay County according to The Shadow Lands:
Hudson House, Ashland
Quick Stop Service Station, Lineville/Barfield
Notable people of Clay County:
Hugo Black (1886-1971) Served as Associate Justice for the United States Supreme Court, 1937-1971.
Joe F. Edwards Jr.-Astronaut (Lineville)
LaFayette L. Patterson (1888-1987) Served 3 terms in the United States Congress, 1928-1933.
Bob Riley (1944-Present) Served as Alabama’s 52nd governor, (2003-Present)
LaFayette Hoyt DeFrese- Private Counselor to England’s Queen Victoria.
Oliver Cromwell Carmichael (1891-1966) President of Alabama College at Montevallo, President of University of Alabama, Chancellor of Vanderbilt.
Robert Daniel Carmichael (1879-1967) Dean of Graduate School at University of Illinois.
Patrick Henry Carmichael- Dean of Presbyterian School of Christian Education in Richmond, Virginia.
Dr Wayne Finley and wife, Dr. Sarah Finley– Important research on medical genetics.
Howard Ballard (1963- Professional football player.
Jonathan Carter (1979- Professional football player.
Edward Yancey Argo (1895-1962) Alabama’s first Olympic Gold Medalist.
Jack Treadwell (1919-1977) Congressional Medal of Honor winner, and most military honors of his time.
Places to eat in Clay County:
Books about Clay County:
- You Always Think of Home: A Portrait of Clay County, Alabama. By Pamela Grundy
- Horse and Buggy Days on Hatchett Creek. By Mitchell B. Garrett
- A City Set On A Hill, a play about Ashland, Alabama
- Mr. Don East holds a larger list of books, pamphlets, and articles that can be found at the Clay County Chamber website.
Other useful Clay County websites:
- Clay County Chamber of Commerce
- Clay County Records
- City of Ashland
- Best in Ashland
- City of Lineville
- Lineville Merchants
Information from this post was acquired from Wikipedia, Clay County Chamber of Commerce which includes many articles written by Mr. Don East, and Red’s Catfish Cabin website. Thanks to all for this wonderful knowledge I hope to pass on.