Attendees at a recent Free Hill reunion
PHOTO: Free Hill Community
County Seat: Celina
In Clay County you will find the community of Free Hill, which has a unique history. In 1830 a North Carolina woman named Virginia Hill decided to free her slaves. She bought 2.000 acres here, in what is now Clay County, Tennessee, and gave it to them to live on. Against incredible odds--Free Hill became the occasional target of terrorist attacks by white supremacists in this part of the state--many of these former slaves thrived, and some of their descendants remain today. Today the community of Free Hill holds annual reunions and is now raising money to restore an old school. Click here to learn more about it.
A photo of Willow Grove
Another story: How would you feel if you came home one day and found that your entire hometown had been covered with a lake? Some of the residents of Clay County
have experienced this. There used to be a small town here called Willow Grove
. Seventy-four families lived there, and the town had churches, stores and schools just like any other town. But in 1940 the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that it was building Dale Hollow Dam, which was going to flood Willow Grove
. The town held meetings to try to stop it, but in those days it was close to impossible to stop the government when it decided to build a dam.
During the next two years, everyone in Willow Grove was forced to sell their homes and move to higher ground. They even dug up their cemeteries and moved the bodies. After the dam was built, it took about a year for the waters of Dale Hollow Lake to rise to the level that the Corps of Engineers wanted. By 1944, the lake was full. Willow Grove was gone.
To read an article on the history of Willow Grove, click here.
Here's a picture of the courthouse in Clay County.