Clay County (formerly Clayton County) is a county located in the U.S. state of Arkansas. As of 2010, the population was 16,083. The county has two county seats, Corning and Piggott. It is a dry county, in which the sale of alcoholic beverages is restricted or prohibited.
When Clay County was created as Arkansas's 67th county on March 24, 1873 (alongside Baxter County), it was named Clayton County after John M. Clayton, then a member of the Arkansas Senate and the brother of then-U.S. Senator Powell Clayton, though some sources suggest it may have been named for Powell Clayton instead.
Two years later on December 6, 1875, the county's name was shortened to "Clay" by the Arkansas General Assembly; though some sources say it was renamed for the legendary statesman Henry Clay, others say John M. Clayton remained its official namesake. In either case, the name change was apparently inspired by lingering distrust of Powell Clayton within the county, due to his declaring martial law and suspending elections there in 1868 when he was Governor of Arkansas and the area was still part of Greene County.
The first county seat was Corning, established in 1873, with the arrival of the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern Railway, as the first incorporated town in the county. The county seat was moved to Boydsville in 1877, though, because people living east of the Black and Cache Rivers had difficulty getting to Corning during flood season. This caused trouble for those living west of the rivers, however, and in 1881 Corning was re-established as the seat of the Western District, with Boydsville remaining the seat of the Eastern District. Upon the arrival of the St. Louis, Arkansas and Texas Railroad in 1882, other towns such as Greenway, Rector and Piggott experienced growth. In 1887, the Eastern District seat was moved to Piggott. The dual county seat system remains in place today. Important county functions (such as the Quorum Court) alternate between Piggott and Corning as their venues.
On April 6, 1972, the sheriff and two sheriff's deputies were killed in a shootout while attempting to serve a warrant on Bert Grissom; Sheriff Douglas Batey and Deputies Glen Ray Archer and Troy Key were killed; Sheriff Batey was replaced by William Thomas Pond as Sheriff, but Sheriff Pond was killed also on June 8, 1973, in an automobile accident. Of the five officers who have died in service of the Clay County Sheriff's Office, four died in these two incidents.