First Post Office and Nature Tourism

First Post Office:

In time, the post offices came. Ayres, which later was called "Mt. Calvary" and sometimes called "Clayton's Cove," was the first in all the surrounding communities to have a post office. It was short-lived, but it opened again later. The Ayres Post Office finally closed decades ago.

In 1878, the Clay Post Office opened. As has been told through the generations, the man who was to be the post master was instructed to select a name for the post office. While sitting on his porch and seeing the red dirt on the hills, he chose "Clay," naming our future city after the soil.

Clay is certainly filled with clay and chirt - not very good for farming - but very good for building fieldstone houses and churches, which is what the residents in the area did. (see side photo)

As time passed, growth avoided our corner of Jefferson County. Instead, Pinson, Springville, Trussville, Center Point and Birmingham changed, while Clay remained a rural community, based on churches, schools and stores. In the early 1900s, Chalkville and Clay joined many other communities with adult baseball teams, contributing to community identity and loyalty.

Nature Tourism:

The story of Clay's history cannot be told without relating that Clay used to be a place for nature tourism. Alabama Caverns, later known as McCluney's Cave and Crystal Cave, attracted sight-seers from around the nation until it permanently closed in the 1960s. Its history includes a designated place as a fallout shelter during the Cold War. Markings in the cavern reveal that someone used it during the Civil War. While open to the public, a welcome center included animal oddities, which were popular in the early part of the 20th Century.

Campbell's Dude Ranch is where people from Birmingham came to camp out and go horseback riding. That area at the intersection of Deerfoot Parkway and Trussville Clay Road is now residential subdivisions.

Another natural attraction was Cosby Lake. In 1922, the area behind the lake became the YMCA Boy Scouts of America camp. In the 1960s, the roadside area of the lake was open to public swimming, attracting people from many surrounding communities as well as Clay residents. It is now a public park.

More Clay History Information: