Forty one days ago, on August 20, 1829 William Campbell first wrote: I started from Lexington, Virginia on a journey to the state of Missouri. My own object in going to that remote section of the Union was to seek a place where I might obtain an honest livelihood by the practice of law. I travel in company with four families containing about 50 individuals, white and black.
Next day rode over miles of very bad roads between Muddy Fork and Little Wabash, said to overflow in winter. Passed through Maysville, the county town of Clay county. It consists of a small wooden court house and jail, two houses and three cabins. Crossed one prairie 10 miles wide, through which passed a small stream called Elm River. The rising and setting of the sun on the prairie is a glorious sight. Encamped in a prairie near a skirt of wood.*
In 1810 John McCawley and Seth Evans were traveling west from Fort Vincennes along the old Buffalo Trace when one of their horses died. McCawley sent his companion back for another horse. McCawley stayed behind in a cabin built on the west bank of the Little Wabash River. This made McCawley the first white man to settle in this area. McCawley later decided to build a stagecoach stop and trading center on the location which was known as McCawley’s Tavern. It provided a place for travelers to stop, eat, and spend the night.
Clay County was created by an act of the legislature on December 23, 1824. On Tuesday, March 8, 1825, at John McCawley’s place, the first county commissioners’ court assembled for the new county of Clay. In 1825 Daniel May donated 20 acres of land, just over 2 miles west of McCawley’s Tavern, to the county for the purpose of constructing a courthouse. This area had previously been known as Hubbardsville but was renamed Maysville. A two-room courthouse was constructed in 1825, and court was held at Maysville until 1841 when it was moved to the new and present county seat, Louisville.
In 1855, after the Ohio &Mississippi (O&M) Railroad was located about 1 mile north of Maysville, Clay City was established by Mr. J.D. Perkey on the north side of the tracks and mostly to the east of the present North Main Street. The business district soon developed to the south of the tracks where it is presently located. Maysville was made a part of the Village of Clay City in 1862. Clay City served as a trading center for the surrounding countryside. Clay City was named for the Kentucky statesman Henry Clay, author of the ‘Missouri Compromise’.
In Louisville, the retired county jail has the distinction of hosting the Clay County museum with the building listed on the National Registry of Historic places. Restoration efforts are also underway in the village of Sailor Springs, once a resort area in the early 1900s featuring natural springs.
The journal continues on 1 October 1829 https://archeralexander.wordpress.com/2020/10/03/1-2-october-1829-thirty-sixth-and-thirty-seventh-entry/
*This is the journal of William Campbell (1805-1849) leading four families from Lexington, in Rockbridge County, Virginia to St. Charles County Missouri, written in 1829. This journal is located in the collections of the Leyburn Library, Special Collections and Archives, located at the Washington and Lee University, in Lexington, Virginia, and for which we are deeply indebted to Lisa McCown. Editor is Dorris Keeven-Franke.