May 11, 2023
Clay County History: Historic Locations, Museums & More!
From historic locations to community museums and notable Clay County residents, the stories of our area help remind us of our past and allow us to honor the legacies that came before us.
In honor of May being Clay County History Month, let’s take a look back at some of the historical places, faces and moments that are notable in Northeast Florida!
Did you know that the county’s namesake never even visited the area? That’s right! Henry Clay, a Kentucky statesman, was a senator and congressman who later became the U.S. Secretary of State from 1825 to 1829. With no known ties to the county, he helped create the Republican and Whig parties which were popular in the area. With political parties as their only connection, residents were such fans that they named the county after him.
In Middleburg, learn this history of this quaint community at the Middleburg Museum. With monthly events like ‘Friday Night at the Museum’, locals gather together and share stories and artifacts from the area. History buffs, genealogists and families can learn of the community’s rich past and present. The museum exists to preserve, educate, honor, and promote its own history.
In addition to the monthly events, the museum is open on Sundays from 2 to 4 p.m. The museum’s “Walk Through Middleburg History” exhibit lets visitors immerse themselves in an example of what a home could have been like in Middleburg around the time of its founding and expansion.
Carrie Clarke House and Tours
Carrie Clarke, an influential resident of Orange Park in the early 1900s, was an active member of the Orange Park Garden Club and the Woman’s Club of Orange Park. She also is credited for helping start the First Baptist Church of Orange Park by holding Sunday School on her front porch in 1921. She helped purchase land for the first sanctuary at a county bankruptcy sale with a bid of $1.
Carrie Clarke was active in helping her husband plant, harvest and pack pecans for their family business – the Clarke’s Pecan Groves located on Kingsley Avenue in Orange Park.
Today, Carrie Clarke Day is celebrated every Spring at the Clarke House Park Playground and Clarke House, located on Kingsley Avenue in Orange Park. The Orange Park Historical Society offers an open house and tours of the Clarke House on the second Sunday of each month from 2 pm. to 4 p.m.
A Look Back at Notable Natives and Residents
From NFL players and Olympians to international musicians and military heroes, Clay County has a long list of notable natives and residents. Classic rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd got their start near Green Cove Springs, playing at the self-named “Hell House” writing hits “Sweet Home Alabama” and more along the banks of Peter’s Creek.
Orange Park resident, Mary Helen Hoff served as the inspiration for the POW/MIA flag after her husband, Navy Cmdr. Michael G. Hoff was shot down in combat and declared missing in Vietnam. Learn more of her story and others in our Explore Clay blog highlighting Women’s History Month.
Clay County’s own Civil Rights movement icon, Maude Jackson and Augusta Savage, one of the leading artists of the Harlem Renaissance also have deep roots within our area. Learn more about both of these remarkable ladies in our Explore Clay blog highlighting Black History Month.
Olympic swimmer Caeleb Dressel is a native of Green Cove Springs and brought home seven Olympic gold medals for the United States. A graduate of Clay High School, Caeleb was once recognized with a cornfield mural at the Amazing Grace Farm.
Learn More of Clay County’s History
To learn more about Clay County’s history, plan a visit to the Clay County Historical Archives in Green Cove Springs. The Archives Center is a great, local resource for genealogical enthusiasts and researchers, too.
So, plan your visit to Clay County and dive into the legendary people and places that make our area so unique. Who knows, you might discover your own history here too!