Select Clay Miscellany

Here are some Clay stories and accounts over the years:

Clay Surname Distribution in England

There were 6,500 Clays recorded in the 1891 census in England and Wales.  The table below shows the main counties where these Clays were to be found.


The Clay name crops up most in Yorkshire and in the Midlands.

Clays from North Wingfield in Derbyshire

The will of John Clay of The Hill in North Wingfield was recorded in 1588.  But this family is likely to go back at least two generations in the village.

Descendants were the Clays of Ault Hucknall across the border in Nottinghamshire (some of whom were Quakers in the late 1600's) and later Clays in Bonsall and Matlock.   One branch moved to Sheffield in Yorkshire and had emigrants to America (Philadelphia) around 1700; another settled in Lancashire and included the Rev. John Clay, the Victorian prison discipilinist from Preston.

Reader Feedback - Clays from Derbyshire

I am a descendant of William Clay and Margaret Newbould who were married at St. Lawrence church in North Wingfield in 1577.  There are Clay descendants still in North Wingfield.

There were two men named John Clay in Derbyshire and each was knoghted.  They lived a hundred years apart.  The first Sir John was knighted by Edward VI in 1471.  He was the one who had the coal mines.  The second Sir John was knighted by Queen Elizabeth around the year 1577.  This John Clay was born and lived in the village of Glapwell near Chesterfield.  He sold his farm there and then moved across the county to the village of Crich near Matlock.  He had two sons and three daughters.  His sons died in childhood and his daughters inherited his property.

Kathleen S. Deveril (

Clays at Greetland near Halifax

Greetland near Halifax is the location for Clay House.  There had been a house on this site recorded in 1296 and again in 1419 which was subsequently the property of Robert Clay the vicar of Halifax.  The Clay House which stands today was built for John Clay and the Clay family around 1650.  However, this family had died out by 1693 and the house passed into other hands.    

American Clay Genealogy

John Clay (1587-1639), the English grenadier, m. Anne Nicholls in England, he arrived in Jamestown in 1613.
- John Clay (1610's-1650's) m. Elizabeth
  - Charles Clay (1638-1686) of Henrico Co, m. Hannah Wilson
     - Henry Clay (1672-1760) of Chesterfield Co, m. Mary Mitchell and their sons:

- William Mitchell Clay (1709-1774) m. Martha
   - Mitchell Clay (1736-1812), m. Phoebe Belcher
- Henry Clay (b. 1713) m. Lucy Green
   - William Clay (1760-1841) of Grainger Co, Tennessee, m. Rebecca Comer
      - Clement Comer Clay (1789-1866) of Huntsville, Governor and Senator of Alabama
         - Clement Claiborne Clay (1816-1882), Senator for Alabama
- Rev. Charles Clay (1716-1789) of Powhaton Co, m. Martha Green
   - Rev. Eleazar Clay (1744-1836), a Baptist minister in Chesterfield Co
   - General Green Clay (1757-1828), the Kentucky landowner, m. Sally Lewis
      - Brutus Clay (1808-1878), Kentucky landowner and politician
      - Cassius Marcellus Clay (1810-1903), the Kentucky emancipationist.
- John Clay (1721-1762) of Chesterfield Co, m. Sarah Watkins
   - Rev. John Clay (1742-1781), a Baptist minister in Hanover Co, m. Elizabeth Hudson
     - Henry Clay (1777-1852), the Kentucky Senator and American statesman 

The Grave of the Rev. Charles Clay

The Rev. Charles Clay was an Episcopalian minister who served St. Anne's parish in Powhaton from 1769 to 1784.  His grave is covered by a huge pile of rocks measuring at one time twenty by twelve by twelve feet high.  

Legend has it that he asked each of his sons to put a rock on his grave for each sin they had committed that he did not know about.  These boys must have been some handful.  It took 100 wagon loads of rock to make that pile.  Another legend is that this Clay was of questionable character and he was afraid that the devil would get him, so that he asked that his grave be covered with rocks.  Apparently the real reason was that he did not want a road crossing over his grave and figured that it would be easier to go round than over that pile of stone.

His grave today lies between the 6th and 7th fairways of the Ivy Hill golf course.

The Clays During The Civil War

The nation was divided by the slave issue and Kentucky embodied that division.  The Compromise of 1850, orchestrated by Henry Clay, had established it as a border state, and it was caught between pro-Union and pro-secession forces.

Brutus J. Clay, the family patriarch, was the state's largest slave owner and yet also a supporter of fellow Kentuckian Abraham Lincoln.  Even after the war had broken out, Brutus attempted to balance these contradictions as a member of Congress.  He would rise in the House to voice his objection to the Emancipation Proclamation and also to give his support of the Union cause.  Brutus's own brother, Cassius Clay, on the other hand, was a firebrand abolitionist and was among the most colorful and controversial public figures of his day.

One of Brutus's sons ran off to join the Confederate army; a nephew joined the Union army.  Despite the divisions, family ties bound them together.  During Brutus's absences in Washington during the Civil War, his wife Ann kept the farm running, hiding the family china in the cistern and scolding rebel soldiers for stealing vegetables.  While her husband fought in Robert E. Lee's army, Brutus's daughter Martha raised and fed her family, protecting her farm from marauding Union soldiers.  When his rebel son was wounded and captured, Brutus himself went to Lincoln to get a pardon, which Lincoln granted.

For nearly a century, letters written by the Clay family between 1843 and 1870 lay undetected in a trunk in the dusty attic of an estate in Bourbon County, Kentucky.  Once discovered they soon captured the attention of regional historians and local archivists.  Mary Clay Berry's 1997 book Voices From the Century Before: The Odyssey of a 19th Century Kentucky Family recounts through these letters this turbulent time. 

Cassius Clay to Mohammed Ali

The boxer Cassius Clay, like his father, was named after the 19th century abolitionist and politician of the same name.  His paternal great grandparents were John and Sally Anne Clay and grandparents, from Jefferson County in Kentucky, Herman and Edith Clay.

Cassius Clay siad that it was his "slave name" and changed it to Mohammed Ali when he joined the Nation of Islam in 1964.

Return to Top of Page
Return to Clay Main Page