Here is another article written by Captain Don East about the history of Clay County. As a Clay Countian of at least 5 generations, I can attest to the validity of his surmisings….
I began this brief sketch of Clay County in an attempt to explain how our landscape and people came to be as they are. This proved to be no easy task, because even to us natives, Clay County seems to have an evasive identity – a split personality of sorts. The county is at once an island that is isolated by both nature and man, while at the same time it is encircled and influenced by an array of nearby modern cities. From its earliest days, Clay County has been isolated on the west by the rugged expanse of the Talladega Mountains, with their dense forests and paucity of natural gaps. To the east, the region has been blocked by the deep defiles and swift currents of the Tallapoosa River. Even after white civilization belatedly came to the area following the expulsion of the Creek Indians in 1836-37; either through design, necessity, or pure circumstance, major communications arteries have shunned the area. Today, there is only one railroad line, no interstate highways, only one small airport and no navigable waterways. These factors tend to keep Clay County off the beaten path. Clay County’s 66,800 remote acres within the Talladega National Forest further adds to its sense of isolation. And finally, although the county is ringed by the cities of Atlanta (80 direct miles to the east), Birmingham (55 direct miles to the west), and Montgomery (65 direct miles to the south); all of these lie outside reasonable commuting distance. These natural and man made barriers have somewhat isolated Clay County, allowing it to maintain a distinctly Appalachian society. Although it is located at the extreme end of the mountain chain, it is Alabama’s best and most intact example of the geographic features and culture known as “Appalachia.” Those practices, methods and ways of life found in the FOXFIRE series books very nicely describe this county of yesterday, with many signs of it still evident today.