Historical Markers in
Clay County, Nebraska

The first Kool-Aid drink mix was invented in Hastings, Nebraska by Edwin Perkins in 1927.
Clay County, located in Nebraska, has a rich history that dates back to the Indigenous peoples who inhabited the area long before European settlement. The Pawnee and Otoe tribes were the primary Native American groups who lived in the region and relied on the land for their sustenance and way of life.

The area that is now Clay County was first explored by Europeans in the early 1800s. The famous American explorer, Zebulon Pike, and his expedition passed through the area in 1806. However, it was not until the mid-1800s that the first permanent settlements were established. These early settlers, mostly of European descent, were attracted to the abundant land and fertile soil, which was perfect for agriculture.

In 1871, Clay County was officially organized, and the county seat was established in Clay Center. The county, named after Henry Clay, a famous American statesman, continued to grow as more settlers arrived, drawn to the promising agricultural opportunities. Grain farming, particularly corn and wheat, became the backbone of the local economy, with rural communities forming around the thriving farming industry.

Over the years, Clay County witnessed progress in transportation infrastructure, with the arrival of railroads in the late 1800s. The rail lines brought increased economic opportunities, allowing for easier transportation of goods and expansion of trade. The population grew steadily, and towns like Harvard and Sutton developed as essential economic and social centers within the county.

Today, Clay County remains an agricultural center, with farming and agribusiness continuing to play a vital role in its economy. The county's rich history and heritage are still celebrated through various festivals, museums, and historic sites that pay tribute to the Native American tribes and early pioneers who shaped the land and communities of Clay County.

This timeline provides a glimpse into the major events and milestones that have shaped the history of Clay County, Nebraska.

  • 1854 - Clay County is established as a county in the Nebraska Territory.
  • 1857 - Clay County's first courthouse is built in the town of Grafton.
  • 1869 - Clay County's seat is moved to the newly established town of Fairfield.
  • 1870 - The town of Sutton is platted and becomes a prominent community in Clay County.
  • 1871 - The Burlington and Missouri River Railroad reaches Sutton, boosting the local economy.
  • 1876 - The Nebraska State Fair is held in Clay County for the first time, attracting thousands of visitors.
  • 1877 - The town of Clay Center is founded and becomes the second largest town in the county.
  • 1888 - An opera house is built in Sutton, providing a venue for cultural events and entertainment.
  • 1902 - The towns of Sutton, Clay Center, and Fairfield are connected by a new electric interurban railway.
  • 1935 - Clay County experiences severe drought and dust storms during the Great Depression.
  • 1965 - The town of Edgar is incorporated in Clay County.
  • 1970 - The Clay County Historical Society is founded to preserve the county's history.
  • 1993 - The Clay County Museum is established in Sutton to showcase the county's heritage.
  • 2000 - Clay County's population reaches its peak at over 7,000 residents.
  • 2019 - Clay County celebrates its 165th anniversary since its establishment.