Promoting & Preserving The History Of Clay County Kentucky

Clay County Historical Society History Pavilion

The Clay County Genealogical and Historical Society's History Pavilion is located on the Square in downtown Manchester. The copper-topped structure is centrally located and meant to serve as a visual symbol for the positive aspects of Clay County’s heritage.

GPS: 37.153894 -83.761798

The pavilion contains three large interpretive signs that focus on early history and places, and some of the most prominent people of historical interest. The signs were designed with out-of-county visitors in mind as well as the local citizens.

The first of the signs is a graphic rendering of the county’s “Historical Trails and Places,” and guides the visitor along the famous Warrior’s Path that traversed the county from north to south and was followed by such early explorers as Dr. Thomas Walker and Daniel Boone in the mid to late 1700s, and countless Indians before them. The graphic also maps out some of the earliest roads funded by the state legislature in the early 1800s that were built expressly for getting salt from several Goose Creek works to customers in the Bluegrass and in other states. This sign shows the location of several of the salt works, and contains pertinent information.

The second sign details the significant Civil War activity that took place within the border of the county from 1861 to 1864. There was a surprisingly high-level of activity from Union and Confederate forces and the story has been largely untold until now. The sign takes the visitor from the raid on the Goose Creek salt works by Rebel forces under the command of Gen. Felix Zollicoffer before the first battle of the war in Kentucky, and through the years of skirmishing between the armies around Manchester and on Red Bird, and details the destruction of the five major salt works by Union forces that was carried out in order to keep salt out of Confederate hands. Much of the sign details the activities of Clay County’s famous Colonel (later Brigadier General) T. T. Garrard in the county.

The third sign gives brief biographies and photos or renderings of some of the most historically prominent Clay County citizens, and shows where they lived and are buried. Included on this sign is the first known settler of the county, John Gilbert, a long hunter who decided to settle on Red Bird at the close of the American Revolution, and raised a large family there with his wife, Mollie Bowling. Others detailed on the sign are:

Brigadier General Theopolis Toulmin Garrard, one of the county’s leading salt makers, and a hero of the Civil War for his brave leadership at the battles of Perryville (Kentucky) and Vicksburg (Mississippi) and numerous other battles. Garrard, who was prominent in local political affairs, continued to wield influence locally and statewide until his death.

Laura White, who was home schooled at her home at Goose Rock and went on to attain prominence far beyond the borders of Clay County by her pioneering educational activities, which included stints at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Sorbonne in Paris, France. Ms. White, after traveling widely in Europe, came back to Clay County to successfully transition her father’s salt business to the emerging timber business toward the end of the 1800s.

Governor Bert T. Combs, widely considered Kentucky’s most progressive governor, a champion of school integration and of education in general, who was born and raised on Beech Creek, schooled at Oneida Baptist Institute, and is buried at the Beech Creek Cemetery, scene of the largest state funeral in Kentucky history upon his death.

General Hugh White, patriarch of the powerful White Family of salt makers, who, with the purchase of the old Collins Salt Works in 1804, was more instrumental than any other with putting the county on the map and establishing what was for a while Kentucky’s most important industry.

David Yancy Lyttle, the famous Manchester lawyer who is credited with being “The Father of Kentucky Education” for his efforts after the Civil War in providing free education to Kentucky’s school children.

Colonel Daniel Garrard, father of General T. T., son of Kentucky’s second governor, James, was instrumental (along with General Hugh White) in establishing the salt industry that became famous nationwide. Colonel Garrard distinguished himself by leading a significant number of Clay County men to the northwest territories (near Fort Detroit and into Canada) during the War of 1812.

Martha Hogg, a business woman who donated much of the land where Oneida Baptist Institute and the town of Oneida were built. Mrs. Hogg, who with her husband C. L. Coldiron, owned what became the legendary Webb Hotel in Manchester, went on after Coldiron’s death to become one of the county’s leading business people despite laws that were effect that curtailed such activity by women.

Nancy Potter was, like Martha Hogg, at a disadvantage in business because of her sex. Upon the death of her husband, Robert, she was able to have the courts declare her a “femme sole”, which allowed her to take over the family business which she parlayed into a significant real estate and financial empire in the late 1800s.

Elijah Griffin, one of the county’s relative few free black men in the time of slavery, and who had to be issued a permit even to travel about in 1827, nevertheless went on to achieve remarkable success in the white business world of Clay County in the early part of the Nineteenth Century.

Colonel Reuben May, salt maker, postmaster at Mount Welcome (Goose Rock), and an officer in the Eighth Kentucky Infantry in the Civil War, went on the lead the Seventh Kentucky at Vicksburg after his friend, Colonel T. T. Garrard was promoted to Brigadier General.

John White, son of Hugh, was one of the early Manchester lawyers who went on to represent Madison County in the state legislature, then on the U. S. Congress where he served as Speaker of the House of Representatives, perhaps the highest office ever attained by a Clay Countian.