County Seat: Henrietta County Population: 10,752 (2010 Census)
The Clay County Courthouse was built in 1884 in an Italianate style as designed by architects Wilson and Tozer. The removal of the prominent clock tower, varied roof alternations, and the addition of a dome have somewhat altered the appearance of the brick and sandstone structure, which is listed as a National Register Property.
Clay County was carved out of Cooke County in 1857 and organized in 1860-61. However, according to historical marker text, the county was disorganized in 1862 due to Indian raids, and reorganized in 1873.
Another historical marker references the impact of Hereford cattle with the following inscription: “It was at or near this spot in the year of our Lord 1876 that the first registered Hereford cattle set their hooves in Texas and thereafter revolutionized the beef cattle industry of the United States of America. This monument erected and dedicated in October 1980 in honor and memory of those whose imagination and courage have made the Hereford the finest beef animal in the world.”
Clay County was named for Henry Clay, a famous American statesman, Kentucky senator, and United States secretary of state. The county seat of Henrietta honors the wife of Henry Clay.
As history books tell it, the origin of the county seat was bred from a rivalry between the towns of Henrietta and New Henrietta, occasionally known as Cambridge, New Town, or Pinhead. June Rayfield Welch offers details in “The Texas Courthouse Revisited” as follows: “Cambridge’s county seat ambitions generated much excitement. The records were captured, and for a while the county operated from Cambridge. Henrietta recovered the government through the efforts of cowhands who roped the safe containing the records and dragged it three miles to Henrietta. Some local historians say the question was finally decided in an election won by Henrietta, but others claim the matter was resolved by a race in which ‘Poker’ Taylor rode his brown mule to victory for Henrietta. But the question was closed forever when the railroad missed Cambridge.”
Details of the area’s rich history can be found in the Clay County 1890 Jail Museum/Heritage Center. Exhibits include The Gallows, the residence that housed the sheriff or live-in jailer, and special displays such as the Greatest Generation collection.
Located along the Red River, Clay County is home to Lake Arrowhead, a 5,000-acre lake that serves as a major attraction for summer recreation.
Visitors and homefolks turn out for the annual Turkey Fest, with this year’s event set for April 10-13 in Henrietta on the courthouse square. For more information, go to http://hccchamber.org/turkey-fest/.
The popular Clay County Pioneer Reunion takes please the third weekend of September, where participants enjoy a parade, rodeo, and other activities on the courthouse lawn.
Another favorite annual event is the annual Clay County “Classic” Christmas which includes the Run Run Rudolph 5K and 1 Mile Fun Run, a lighted Christmas parade, craft stations, vendors, and a classic Christmas movie under the stars.