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Clay County is named in honor of
Henry Clay, famous American statesman, member of the United States
Senate from Kentucky and United States Secretary of State in the
19th century. The county seat is Henrietta. The first settlers
in the area were probably W. T. and Wess Waybourne, who came in the
1850s and built their homes on the south fork of the Wichita River
two miles from the site of present-day Henrietta. Clay County was
marked off from Cooke County on December 24, 1857. Indians,
however, remained a constant threat at this time, and the army
conducted regular patrols of the area.
|The county was organized
in 1861, but it was largely abandoned the following year because of
the removal of federal troops during the war. With the
establishment of Fort Sill in Indian Territory after the Civil War,
settlers began to return to Clay County.|
Among the first
permanent residents after the war was Henry A. Whaley, who raised
grain and vegetables on his farm near the mouth of the Wichita River
to sell to the army at Fort Sill. The county was reorganized on May
27, 1873, with Cambridge as the county seat. Most of the early
settlers raised cattle, along with small crops of corn and cotton.
In 1882 the Fort Worth and Denver Railway was built across the
county through Henrietta. The town, which had been largely abandoned
since the outbreak of the Civil War, bustled with new activity;
after most of the residents of Cambridge moved there because of the
railroad, Henrietta was incorporated and made the new county
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