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Clay County, Arkansas

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Please add profiles of those who were born, lived or died in Clay County, Arkansas.

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When Clay County was created as Arkansas's 67th county on March 24, 1873, it was named Clayton County, after John M. Clayton, then a member of the Arkansas Senate and a brother of then-U.S. Senator Powell Clayton, though some sources suggest it may have been named for Powell Clayton instead.

Two years later on December 6, 1875, the county's name was shortened to "Clay" by the Arkansas General Assembly. Some claim it was renamed for the statesman Henry Clay, while others say John M. Clayton remained its official namesake. The name change apparently was inspired by lingering distrust of Powell Clayton, as he had declared martial law and suspended elections in the county in 1868 when he was Governor of Arkansas and it was still part of Greene County.

The first county seat was Corning, established in 1873, with the arrival of the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern Railway, as the first incorporated town in the county. The county seat was moved to Boydsville in 1877, because people living east of the Black and Cache Rivers had difficulty getting to Corning during the flood season. However, this caused problems for those living west of the rivers, and in 1881 Corning was re-established as the seat of the Western District, with Boydsville remaining the seat for the Eastern District. With the arrival of the St. Louis, Arkansas and Texas Railroad in 1882, other towns such as Greenway, Rector and Piggott experienced growth. In 1887, the Eastern District seat was moved to Piggott, and the dual county seat system remains in place today. Important county functions (such as the Quorum Court) alternate between Piggott and Corning as their venues.

In the early 20th century, Clay, Greene, and Craighead counties had sundown town policies forbidding blacks from living in the area. In a barn behind the Pfeiffer House, Ernest Hemingway wrote portions of his novel, A Farewell To Arms when he was married to the daughter of Paul and Mary Pfeiffer.

On April 6, 1972, Sheriff Douglas Batey and deputies Glen Ray Archer and Troy Key were shot and killed while trying to serve a warrant on Bert Grissom. Grissom opened fire as soon as the men stepped out of their car. He later surrendered without resistance to another deputy, and was tried, convicted, and sentenced to life in prison. William Thomas Pond became sheriff, but he died in an automobile accident on June 8, 1973.

Adjacent Counties

Cities, Towns, Townships & Communities

  • Bennett-Lemmons
  • Bradshaw-Haywood
  • Brown-Carpenter
  • Cache-Wilson
  • Chalk-Bluff-Liddell
  • Clark
  • Cleveland-North Kilgore
  • Corning (County Seat)
  • Datto
  • East Oak Bluff-Blue Cane
  • Gleghorn-South Kilgore
  • Greenway
  • Johnson
  • Knob
  • Knobel
  • McDougal
  • Nelson
  • Nimmons
  • North St. Francis
  • Payne-Swain
  • Peach Orchard
  • Piggott (County Seat)
  • Pollard
  • Rector
  • Scatterville
  • St. Francis
  • South St. Francis
  • Success
  • West Oak Bluff



Genealogy Trails

Battle of Chalk Bluff

National Register of Historic Places

AR Gen Web

Arkansas Digital Archives - Clay County

Roots Web

USGW Archives


1880 Clay County, Arkansas Census

Hearthstone Legacy