Clay County, Kentucky Genealogy and History

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I am Judy White, the new county coordinator for Clay County Kentucky AHGP.  If you have information to add to Clay County, please use our contact form.  I love to receive mail from our readers, however, this form keeps email harvesters from sending me spam!

Clay county was formed in 1807. It is located in the Eastern Coal Field region of the state. The elevation in the county ranges from 690 to 2235 feet above sea level. In 1990 the county population was 21,746 in a land area of 471 square miles, an average of 46.2 people per square mile. The county seat is Manchester. Most of Clay county is within the Daniel Boone National Forest. , 660,000 acres in Clay and other counties.

Manchester, the seat of Clay county, was established along Goose Creek in 1807 as Greenville, named for Green Clay, for whom the county was also named. It was renamed Manchester later that year since there was already a Greenville, Kentucky (in Muhlenberg county). The name Manchester may come from the city in England, reflecting local hopes for a future in industry. The post office opened in 1813 as Clay County Court House. The population in 1990 was 1,634.

Brief History of Clay County, Kentucky

The Kentucky Legislature created Clay County in December of 1806 from parts of Madison, Floyd, and Knox Counties. This went into effect on April 01, 1807. Between the years 1807 - 1878 parts of Clay County were used to help form other counties:  Estill, Perry, Laurel, Breathhitt, Lee, Owsley, Jackson, and Leslie.

Clay County was named after General Green Clay who lived in Madison County.  He was cousin to Henry Clay. General Clay served in the war of 1812.  He was a Madison County legislator and a Kentucky surveyor.  Green Clay was born in 1757, and died in 1826.

Clay County was the leading salt producer in the state during the nineteenth century.  Salt was so important; Daniel Boone offered to re-route the Wilderness Road to pass the Goose Creek salt works.  He did not get the approval, however, and the area had no suitable roads for sometime.  In 1811 the Kentucky River was made navigational and a canal system was proposed during the 1820/1830's.  A pass by the Goose Creek salt works helped expand the market.  Salt production peaked between 1835 and 1845.  During the Civil War, about October of 1862, the Union ordered all salt production sites destroyed rather than risk them falling into the hands of the Confederates again.  Only four salt sites remained after the war, the last one closed in 1908.  Afterwards, Clay County had little contact with the outside world for quite a while, mostly due to lack of transportation.  The railroad service came to the area in the early twentieth century; after the coal fields started developing, around 1914.  In 1971, the Daniel Boone Parkway opened and linked Manchester to I-75.

Today, Clay County, Kentucky covers 471 square miles and is the sixteenth largest county in the area.  Population of Clay County was 21,746 in 1990.  Coal mines still provide approximately one-third of the local employment. The eastern Kentucky coal field covers the eastern end of the state, stretching from the Appalachian Mountains westward across the Cumberland Plateau to the Pottsville Escarpment. Coal mining is the major industry. Bordering counties are Knox, Laurel, Jackson, Owsley, Perry, Leslie, and Bell.  Other neighboring counties include: Harlan, Whitley, Rockcastle, Madison, Estill, Breathitt, and Letcher.  Clay County was the 47th county to be formed in the state of Kentucky.  The county seat is in the city of Manchester.

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