North Carolina-Clay County-March 16

North Carolina People, Places, and Things-March 16

I am the dad to five adult children. As they were growing up I attempted to remind them they were special and to implore them to learn something new. My goal was to do that daily.

In 2016 my goal is to learn something new daily on the people, places, and things that make North Carolina special.

My 2016 project to learn something new about North Carolina is creating a theme for me when it comes to the names of North Carolina’s 100 counties. The fact is more often than not they are named for people who didn’t live there or were not born in North Carolina. Case in point is Clay County.

Clay County depicted in red.


Formed from Cherokee County in 1861, Clay County’s name is derived from legendary senator Henry Clay, who ironically, was not from North Carolina. Cherokee Indians widely inhabited the area until Scotch-Irish and English settlers arrived in the late-eighteenth century. Thirty years after the county’s establishment, Hayesville was incorporated as the county seat.  The town is named after George W. Hayes, a North Carolina General Assembly member who worked for Clay County’s establishment.

Clay County is sparsely populated with slightly more than 10,000 residents. It southern border is with the State of Georgia and of course its county seat is Hayesville. Much of Clay County exists within the Nantahala National Forest.


The Nantahala National Forest was established in 1920 and took its name from the Cherokee word nondayeli, meaning “noonday sun.” The Cherokee word is appropriate because of the number of steep gorges in the forest that only receive sunlight when the sun stands directly overhead.

Indian mounds have been found in various places in western North Carolina. The highest one is located in Hayesville. The mound stands in a field below the Community Center in town. Bones, pottery shards, and arrowheads have been dug from the mound. These mounds were built by Indian tribes who preceded the Cherokee Indians that were living here at the time the white men came.

Artist rendering of what the village might have looked like in Hayesville, NC-it was called Spikebuck Town.

Indian village

Spikebuck Town was located immediately east of Hayesville, NC on the the Hiwassee River bottomland.
The Cherokee built a large earthen mound which can still be seen at the mouth of Town Creek. The mound was the chief’s house or the ceremonial center for the town.



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