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Clay County, Tennessee facts for kids

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Clay County
Clay County Courthouse in Celina
Clay County Courthouse in Celina
Map of Tennessee highlighting Clay County
Location within the U.S. state of Tennessee
Map of the United States highlighting Tennessee
Tennessee's location within the U.S.
Country  United States
State  Tennessee
Founded 1870
Named for Henry Clay
Seat Celina
Largest city Celina
 • Total 259 sq mi (670 km2)
 • Land 237 sq mi (610 km2)
 • Water 23 sq mi (60 km2)  8.8%%
 • Total 7,861
 • Density 33/sq mi (13/km2)
Time zone UTC−6 (Central)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−5 (CDT)
Congressional district 6th

Clay County is a county located in the U.S. state of Tennessee. As of the 2010 census, the population was 7,861. 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. Its current mayor is Dale Reagan.


Clay County was formed in 1870 by combining pieces from surrounding Jackson and Overton counties. Secretary of State Cordell Hull's first law office (now a museum) was located in Clay County.

Clay County's early inhabitants farmed and worked the Cumberland River, which was the major method of transportation in the Cumberland area. There were many docks and ferry crossings throughout Clay County to transport local crops and livestock to major markets. The timber industry was a major employer throughout the 1800s and 1900s and provides many jobs today. Tobacco farming became important in the local area throughout the 1900s and many old tobacco barns are still standing. With the end of government subsidies and with foreign competition, tobacco farming is minimal. Cattle and corn are the major agricultural influences today.

During the Civil War, many skirmishes took place up and down the Cumberland River to control the movement of barges laden with supplies. Local communities were split in their loyalties, with many families at odds with each other. Some of these animosities remain today between family groups.

The city of Celina is at the junction of the Obey and Cumberland rivers, and was a major port during the steamboat years between Nashville and Burnside, Kentucky. Although the Celina ferry landing no longer exists, Celina still connects the north and south by highway. Butler's Landing was used as a storage depot with large warehouses owned and operated by the Butler family. The first Clay County Court meeting was held in a store near the river at Butler's Landing on March 6, 1871. Butler's Landing nearly became the county seat, but Celina won the vote by a narrow margin.

Clay County's rural location and lack of major four-lane highway connections continues to hamper development and attraction of business and industry. This has resulted in the county having the highest unemployment rate in the state of Tennessee many months of the year and the loss of educated young people who have no opportunities locally. However, SR 52 is being upgraded to a 4-lane divided highway as part of the Corridor J project, which will connect to I-40 in Cookeville. .


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 259 square miles (670 km2), of which 237 square miles (610 km2) is land and 23 square miles (60 km2) (8.8%) 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.

Adjacent counties

State protected areas


Historical population
Census Pop.
1880 6,987
1890 7,260 3.9%
1900 8,421 16.0%
1910 9,009 7.0%
1920 9,193 2.0%
1930 9,577 4.2%
1940 10,904 13.9%
1950 8,701 −20.2%
1960 7,289 −16.2%
1970 6,624 −9.1%
1980 7,676 15.9%
1990 7,238 −5.7%
2000 7,976 10.2%
2010 7,861 −1.4%
Est. 2015 7,771 −1.1%
U.S. Decennial Census
1790-1960 1900-1990
1990-2000 2010-2014
USA Clay County, Tennessee.csv age pyramid
Age pyramid Clay County

As of the census of 2000, there were 7,976 people, 3,379 households, and 2,331 families residing in the county. The 2005 Census Estimate placed the population at 7,992 [1]. The population density was 34 people per square mile (13/km²). There were 3,959 housing units at an average density of 17 per square mile (6/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 96.75% White, 1.44% Black or African American, 0.33% Native American, 0.14% Asian, 0.11% Pacific Islander, 0.24% from other races, and 0.99% from two or more races. 1.35% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 3,379 households out of which 27.70% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 54.70% were married couples living together, 9.70% had a female householder with no husband present, and 31.00% were non-families. 27.60% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.00% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.33 and the average family size was 2.80.

In the county, the population was spread out with 21.50% under the age of 18, 7.90% from 18 to 24, 27.40% from 25 to 44, 27.60% from 45 to 64, and 15.70% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females there were 94.60 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 95.00 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $23,958, and the median income for a family was $29,784. Males had a median income of $23,513 versus $16,219 for females. The per capita income for the county was $13,320. About 14.30% of families and 19.10% of the population were below the poverty line, including 23.40% of those under age 18 and 27.60% of those age 65 or over.



Unincorporated communities

  • Arcot
  • Beech Bethany
  • Brimstone
  • Butler's Landing
  • Denton Crossroads
  • Free Hill
  • Hamilton Branch
  • Hermitage Springs
  • Lily Dale
  • Maple Grove
  • Moss
  • Neely Crossroads
  • Oak Grove
  • Pea Ridge
  • Shanky Branch
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