Clay County is a county located in the U.S. state of Indiana. As of 2010, the population was 26,890. The county seat is Brazil. Clay County is included in the Terre Haute, Indiana, Metropolitan Statistical Area.
Clay County was formed in 1825. Its name is in honor of Henry Clay, a famous antebellum American statesman.
The first Courthouse was built in the newly platted town of Bowling Green in 1828, soon after Clay County was formed by the Indiana legislature. It was a two story structure of hand hewn logs.
By the late 1830s Clay County had grown to the extent that the first Courthouse could no longer provide adequate facilities. Therefore a second Courthouse was constructed near the first Courthouse. This was a two story brick structure. This Courthouse served until destroyed by fire on the night of November 30, 1851.
Although some citizens believed Bowling Green was no longer the most practical or logical site for a new courthouse, the commissioners quickly decided to build the third courthouse on the site of the previous one in Bowling Green. Built of brick, at a cost of $11,000, and very similar to the previous courthouse, the new Courthouse began serving the county in the Fall of 1853.
By the 1860s the towns of Harmony, Knightsville, and Brazil were growing rapidly, due in part to their location along the National Road, and also because of the many coal companies in that section of the county. An effort to move the county seat of government to a more central location, which had begun in the 1850s, grew stronger creating controversy among citizens. In the 1860s citizens in the northern section of Clay County became more organized in their efforts. In 1871 brothers Robert and John Stewart donated a tract of land along the National Road in Brazil for proposed site of the new courthouse. The sum of $5,300 was also raised by citizens in the area to entice the commissioners to move the seat of government from Bowling Green to Brazil. This amount was reportedly the value of the existing courthouse and grounds, thus defusing opponents argument that abandoning the present courthouse would be a waste of taxpayers money. The relocation efforts, which began in 1871, were challenged in the Supreme Court. The relocation was finally granted in 1876.
In 1912 John W. Gaddis, a prominent architect in Vincennes, Indiana, entered into a contract with the County Commissioners to design, plan, and oversee the construction of a new courthouse. The construction bid of W.H. Bailey and Charles A. Koemer of Louisville, Kentucky was accepted in 1912 with the cornerstone being laid in the fall of 1912. Gaddis had successfully completed several others: in Fairfield and Robinson, Illinois: Perryville, Missouri and two in Indiana, the Putnam County Courthouse in Greencastle (1905) and the Huntington County Courthouse (1906) in Huntington, which are also in Classical Revival mode.
The Clay County Courthouse built in 1913-1914, is one of the most historically and architecturally significant buildings in Brazil and Clay County, Indiana. Built in Classical Revival style of architecture, it is the only building in Clay County holding county government offices and records. It is also located alongside the famed National Road (Cumberland Trail).The present Courthouse is the fifth Courthouse to serve the people of Clay County,