THE HISTORY OF
Written by Lucille Glasgow of
the Clay County Historical
Henrietta, TX, using as sources A HISTORY OF CLAY COUNTY by William
Charles Taylor (Austin: Jenkins Pub. Co., 1972 ) and HISTORY OF CLAY
COUNTY AND NORTHWEST TEXAS by J.P. Earle (Austin: The Brick Row Book
Shop, 1900; facsimile edition 1963.)
Clay County lies along the 98th Meridian in North Texas bordered by the
Red River on the north, Montague County on the east, Jack County on the
south, Archer and Wichita on the west. It was authorized by the
Texas Legislature in 1857, organized in 1860, de-organized in 1863
because of the forts being abandoned during the Civil War and the
consequent depredations of the Comanche and Kiowa Indians. After
the war ended and the forts were again occupied, the county was
reorganized in 1873.
In the late 1850's and early 1860's, ranchers had brought their herds
onto the free range in Clay and counties farther west but lived in
Montague County and came to round them up several times a year.
They suffered heavy losses but Clay County had always been a land of
excellent grass, adequate water, and a climate conducive to ranching.
A few farmers came to grow corn, wheat, oats and domestic farm animals.
A little village sprang up near the center of the county named
Henrietta. It had some ten houses and a general store by the time
the county was abandoned to the Indians, who burned all of it after the
Clay County was a hideout for outlaws and deserters during the waning
years of the Civil War. Fort Buffalo Springs was built in the
south part of the county in 1867 and moved to Jacksboro less than a year
later. In 1869, Ft. Sill was established and soldiers patrolling
between there and Ft. Richardson in Jacksboro afforded some protection
from marauding Indians so that settlers began to trickle back into the
county; some rebuilt cabins up to the blackened stone chimneys left from
the first houses in Henrietta.
In 1869, Brevet Major G.B. McClellan and some 50 men of the Sixth
Cavalry were attacked near the charred remains of Henrietta by a force
of 300 warriors under Chief Kicking Bird. The soldiers managed to
hold out during a hard day's fighting and the Indians withdrew during
Henry Whaley was the first truly permanent white settler in Clay County,
near the present-day Waurika Bridge. He and some ten or fifteen
helpers grew oats to sell to the government for use at Ft. Sill.
He came in 1869 and managed to survive in spite of several skirmishes
with Indians and great losses in livestock and the loss of several of
In 1870 the Koozier family built in Henrietta and were murdered and
kidnaped by the Indians, the women and children later being ransomed.
In the 1870's, Henrietta was the supply station for the buffalo hunters
who went out onto the western prairies, killed and skinned the buffalo
by the thousands and brought the hides back to Henrietta to be shipped
by ox drawn freight wagons to the railroad in Sherman. Later it
was a depot for the bones gathered up from the prairies and shipped by
rail to be made into fertilizer. The Fort Worth and Denver City
Railroad came through Henrietta in 1882, building west toward Denver and
creating towns and populated counties along the way.
Besides some of the ranchers running cattle on the free range, farmers
came into the county, first in the south at Newport in 1872 and then
along the Red River at Benvenue in 1876 and Charlie in 1878.
In 1876 the U.S. Government put a telegraph line from Ft. Richardson to
Ft. Sill, running through the little town of New Henrietta, later called
Cambridge, about six miles east of Henrietta. For some time there
was stiff rivalry between the two towns for the county seat. When
the railroad came through Henrietta in 1882, most of the residents of
Cambridge moved their houses to Henrietta.
In 1873 William Sude Ikard established a ranch in the central part of
the county and introduced the first Hereford cattle into the area in
1876. He suffered heavy losses to Texas fever until the tick was
discovered to be the carrier and cattlemen began to dip the cattle to
rid them of the deadly pests.
In 1878 Shannon was settled in the extreme south part of the county and
Buffalo Springs several miles northeast, where the fort had been
earlier. Also, Joy, Prospect and Bluegrove were settled in the south
central part of the county in the late '70's and early '80's .
As barbed wire was introduced into the county, the free range began to
disappear. A prolonged drought precipitated a fence-cutting war in
the south part of the county and elsewhere in Texas. After much
destruction of fences and several shootings, the legislature met in
special session and passed laws which resolved the conflict. Mr.
Sanborn, an early barbed wire promoter, established the Stanfield Ranch
in northern Clay Co. in 1883. Thus was born also the community of
Other communities settled in the '80's and '90's were Thornberry in the
northwest, Hurnville and Riverland in the north and northeast, Deer
Creek and Halsell in the south central part. Bellevue had been
established as a shipping point on the new railroad in the east in 1882
and Jolly in the west in 1890.
In 1901, oil was discovered on the Lockridge farm about 15 miles
northwest of Henrietta. The boom was on; Oil City was born on the
barren prairie. The Wichita and Oklahoma Railroad was built from Wichita
Falls northeast to the Red River. Oil City moved over to the
railroad and became Petrolia in 1904 and in that same year town lots
were sold by the Byers Brothers Ranch to form the town of Byers some
five miles northeast of Petrolia.
In 1906 the Petrolia oil was found to have a high gas content and Lone
Star Gas Co. was formed to distribute gas to Wichita Falls, Henrietta,
and on to Dallas and Fort Worth. Oil was eventually found in
nearly all parts of the county to be one of its major industries, along
From the eighty some odd rural schools Clay County has had at one time
or another have come five modern, highly accredited consolidated school
districts: Henrietta, Byers, Petrolia, Bellevue and Midway. Many
county residents work in Wichita Falls, Bowie and as far away as the
Dallas-Ft. Worth Metroplex.
Clay County is still the home of ranches of all sizes, where pick-up
trucks and four wheelers vie with cow ponies as the preferred mode of
transportation and where hunting leases are a new source of income.
Large fields of wheat and cotton still abound in the northern part of
Residents are proud of their frontier heritage that has produced
friendly people who pride themselves on being independent,
individualistic, tough, God-fearing citizens who help their neighbors
and cherish their Pioneer Reunion and Rodeo in September. It is a
good place to live.