Clay County, Tennessee was formed from sections of Jackson and Overton counties in 1870 and was named in honor of Henry Clay, a Kentucky statesman and U.S. Secretary of State.
Clay County has been a part of three states—North Carolina, Tennessee, and Kentucky and a part of six counties—Davidson, Sumner, Smith, Jackson, Overton, and Cumberland County, Kentucky.
The part of Clay County taken from Overton County contained part of the 57,000 acres of land John Sevier acquired from a grant for his service to the United States during the Revolutionary War. In 1815, after his death, his widow, Bonnie Kate Sevier moved to this property known as “The Dale.” From there she moved to Alabama where she died.
In 1940 the county was changed forever when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that it was building Dale Hollow Dam to harness the wild Obey River. As a result one community, Willow Grove, was wiped out and countless acres of land were flooded. The project displaced about 1,500 people located in the eastern section of the county.
This removal of people could be called Clay County’s “Trail of Tears.” After the Dam was built it took about a year for the water of the lake to rise to the level that the Corps wanted. The reservoir has 27,000 acres of water and 25,000 acres of land. By 1944 the lake was full and Willow Grove was gone. In 1955, the world record small mouth bass, 11 pounds, 13 ounces, was caught on Dale Hollow Lake.