Clay Cemetery

Documenting and preserving Clay Cemetery in Atlanta's Kirkwood community


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Clay Cemetery Conventional Gravestones

Gravestones are doorways opening to the past and those that lived there. Through them we learn who was before us, when they came and when they crossed into the next life, the symbols that had particular significance to them, and often what they and their people believed about life and death. The cold stones warm as they tell about mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, children, the beloved and missed of a time gone by and the world they lived in along with their strong belief in a place they were going to when they departed.

Clay Cemetery’s conventional gravestones are almost all marble, with only one or two reflecting the historically later use of granite. Alternative materials include two homemade gravestones of box cast concrete with the names written by fingertip while still wet and another more formally cast in cement with embossed lettering and decoration (commonly used as temporary markers by African American funeral homes, this one from a nearby Stocks Funeral Home). Oral history from the 1930’s reports wooden markers for Jesse and Green Clay. The smallest gravestones are single box pieces 6-8 inches high while the two largest are near 8 feet tall and composed of as many as 12 parts. Many styles of gravestones are represented including simple tablets, obelisks, pulpit markers, bedsteads, and complex die, base, and cap grave markers.

Symbols and images on Clay Cemetery gravestones reflect a great deal of how the Clay Family and other Kirkwood residents felt about religion, the afterlife, and the departed. Their documented Baptist faith is repeatedly illustrated by open bibles, biblical robes, gates opening to heaven, and crosses. The great variety of carved plant life illustrates both the deep feelings held about the deceased and faith based plant symbology. Clay Cemetery’s garden of stone contains rose, tulip, Easter palm, fern, oak leaf, magnolia, maple, ivy, and daisies… all accented by hearts, fraternal symbols, and carved verses speaking to love for the departed and a sure knowledge of their eternal life. These feelings and beliefs are deeply articulated in the gravestone verses for Claudia Elise Wood and her newborn son Earnest Howard Wood, who died within hours of each other
 after his birth:

“Mother”
A ray of sunshine she ever
 was
Though saddened with 
worldly cares
She’s gone to the mighty maker above
Who shares all our toils
 and cares.

“Son”
A flower plucked from our 
midst
As it were by God’s omnipotent
 hand
To grace the mighty throne
 on high
Of the new Jerusalem.

Clay Cemetery’s conventional gravestones also illustrate the economic and social path of the Clay Family, Kirkwood, and Atlanta in DeKalb County during the 19th and early 20th centuries from the earliest settlers clearing and farming the land, to their land rich and upper class children, followed by comfortably middle class children and grandchildren, to the generation of grandchildren and great grandchildren devastated and set adrift by the Great Depression. These changes are represented by a shift in markers from long gone wooden materials, to simple tablet stones, to expensive and complex Victorian and Edwardian gravestones followed by a return to simpler forms ultimately replaced from economic necessity by homemade cement gravestones. The cemetery’s history accurately illustrates the economic and social path of Kirkwood and Atlanta in DeKalb during the 19th and early 20th Centuries. Gravestones are part of the growing evidence that Clay Cemetery evolved from a pioneer family cemetery to become a white upper middle class neighborhood cemetery, later becoming a cemetery defined more by income than geography during the depression.

 

#221: Florina Clay

#221: Florina Clay

#223: Cleveland Clay

#223: Cleveland Clay

#223: Cleveland Clay (Full)

#223: Cleveland Clay (Full)

#225: Talmadge Clay

#225: Talmadge Clay

#233: Margaret Hammond Dunn

#233: Margaret Hammond Dunn

#233: Roof and Four Pillars

#233: Roof and Four Pillars

#236: Matilda Hammond

#236: Matilda Hammond

#241: Tom Hammond

#241: Tom Hammond

#242: Lila Lee Marston

#242: Lila Lee Marston

#248: Maggie Belle Felton (Front)

#248: Maggie Belle Felton (Front)

#259: Clay (Reverse side)

#259: Clay (Reverse side)

#259: Willie Smith

#259: Willie Smith

#261: John W Clay

#261: John W Clay

 


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Clay Cemetery Geneology

Clay Family of Virginia 

1. John Clay “of Derby” 

2. John Clay “of Glouchester”

3. Sir John Clay (b. 1558, Wales, d. 5/16/1632, England) married: Mary Carlton (b. approx. 1566). Two other marriages without children.

  • Theopolis Clay – Richard Clay (b. 1585, England)
  • Charles Clay (b. approx.1587, England, d. 1610, England)
  • Henry Clay (b. approx., 1587, England, d. ? )
  • John Clay (b. approx.1592, Monmouthshire, Wales, d. approx. 1638, Charles City County, Virginia)
  • William Clay (b. approx. 1602, England)

4. John Clay (b. approx.1592, Monmouthshire, Wales, d. approx. 1638, Charles City County, Va.) emigrated: Jamestown, Va. aboard the Treasurer 2/1613 married: Anne, approx. 1623

  • John Clay (b. approx. 1624, Charles City County, Va., d. approx. 1647, Charles City County, Va.)
  • William Clay (b. approx. 1628, Charles City County, Va., d. 1663, Charles City County, Va.)

5. John Clay (b. approx. 1624, Charles City County, Va., d. approx. 1647, Charles City County, Va.) married: Elizabeth approx. 1644

  • Charles Clay (b. 1645, Charles City County, Va., d. 6/1/1686, Henrico County, Va.)
  • William Clay

6. Charles Clay (b. 1645, Charles City County, Va, d. 6/1/1686, Henrico County, Va.). married: Hannah Wilson (b. 1642, d. approx. 1706), approx. 1667

  • John Clay (b. approx. 1668, Henrico Co, Va., d. 1723, Chowan Co, N.C.)
  • Thomas Clay (b. approx. 1670, Henrico Co, Va., d. 1726, Prince George Co, Va.)
  • Henry Clay (b. 1672, Henrico Co, Va., d. 1760, Henrico Co, Va.)
  • Mary Clay (b. approx. 1675, Henrico Co, Va.)
  • Elizabeth Clay (b. approx. 1678, Henrico Co, Va.)
  • Judith Clay (b. approx. 1681, Henrico Co, Va.)
  • Charles Clay (b. approx. 1684, Henrico Co, Va., d. 1765, Chesterfield Co., Va.)

7. Henry Clay (b. 8/3/1672, Henrico County, Virginia, d. 8/3/1760, Henrico County, Virginia) married: Mary Mitchell (b. 1693, d. 1777)

  • William Mitchell Clay (b. 1/15/1708, d. 9/6/ 1774)
  • Charles Clay (d. 1/31/1716)
  • John Clay
  • Martha Clay
  • Henry Clay Jr.

8. William Mitchell Clay (b. 1/15/1708, d. 9/6/ 1774); married: Martha Runyan (first wife) 1732

  • Pearce Clay
  • William Clay
  • Davie Clay
  • Elizabeth Clay
  • Mitchel Clay (b. 1735, Henrico County, VA; d. 1812, Franklin County, Va.)
  • Judith Clay
  • Henry J. Clay
  • Obediah Clay
  • Ezekial Clay
  • Meredith Clay
  • Hannah Clay
  • Nancy Clay

Married: Martha Anne Lewis (second wife)

  • William Clay (b. 1733)
  • Mitchel Clay (b. approx. 1735)
  • Obediah Clay (b. 1737, d. 1815)
  • David Clay (b. 1710)
  • Meredith Clay (b. 1742)
  • Nancy Clay (b. 1744)
  • Ezekial Clay (b. 1746)
  • Jesse Clay (b. 1745)
  • Hannah Clay 
  • Judith Clay (b. 1737, d. 1809)
  • Mary Elizabeth (b. 1755, d. 1810)

9. Jessie Clay, (b. approx. 1745 Goochland, Va., d. 8/15/1824 Jasper County, Ga.) married: Marium (b. approx.1745) 8/20/1798 (second wife)

10. Royal Clay, Sr. (b. 1768) of Randolph County, Georgia, later named Jasper County.

11. Jesse W. Clay, Sr. ( b. 1792, d. 2/1/1871) married Jane (first wife) in 1822. Ten children.

  • John Augustus (b.4/10/1810, d.1887)
  • Samuel C. (b. 1815)
  • Joseph F. (b. 1817)
  • Greenberry or Green B. (b. 1820, d. 5/21/1886)
  • Mary Ann (b. 1821, d. 4/7/1885)
  • Loucinda (b. 1824)
  • Malinda (b. 1825, d. 4/9/1866)
  • Jesse W. Jr. (b.1829, d.1863) married Susannah Brown (b.1830) in 1849
  • Elizabeth Jane (b. 1829)
  • Cleveland (b.1/9/1836, d. 4/28/1909) married Nancy in 1858 married Charity Wellborn (second wife) in 1858. No children.

Jesse Clay emigrated from Monticello, Jasper County , Georgia (where he shows on the Federal Census of 1820 along with his wife, three sons, a daughter, and six slaves) to settle in DeKalb County. He purchased Land Lots 206 and 207 of the 15th District, DeKalb County, from Taylor & Watts of Jasper County in 1826. Subsequent censuses do not document slaves (sources: U.S. Federal Censuses and Deposition of Cleveland Clay, 1896). They may have been replaced as Jesse Clay’s sons grew old enough to work or been sold to pay for the property.

Jesse Clay made the final payment on the land after traveling to South Carolina and back by horseback. He initially lived on the property in a tent and drew water from a spring at Wade’s Place hollow, now Gilliam Park.(source: Deposition of Cleveland Clay, 1896).

Jesse W. Clay Jr. was a Private in Company D, 42nd Georgia Infantry Regiment, the “Dekalb Rangers” on March 4, 1862. He died at Vicksburg, Miss, May 15, 1863 and is buried in Grave #1097, Cedar Hill (Vicksburg City) Cemetery. (Sources: Georgia Civil War Soldier Index, Page 58, and the Record Book of Confederate Soldiers, United Daughters of the Confederacy Case, Old Courthouse Museum, Elizabeth C. Taylor, Vicksburg Chapter No. 77, 1958)

12. Cleveland Clay (b.1836, d.1909) married Nancy (b.1842, d.1903) in1858

  • John W. (b.5/21/1861, d.9/20/1928)
  • Robert L. (b.9/27/1862, d.7/16/1863)
  • Elmer B. 
  • Geneva 
  • Nannie Bell Clay 
  • Mattie Clay, married

Cleveland Clay was a Private in Company D, 42nd Georgia Infantry Regiment, the “Dekalb Rangers” on May 13, 1862. He surrendered at Greensboro, N. C. April 26, 1865. (Source – Georgia Civil War Soldier Index, Page 58).

Jesse Jr. and Cleveland’s unit was part of Barton-Stovall’s Georgia Infantry Brigade, Army of Tennessee. They fought in the following engagements: Bridgeport, AL., Tazwell, TN., Invasion of Kentucky (1862), Chickasaw Bayou, MS., Baker’s Creek, MS., Vicksburg, MS.(where Jesse Clay Jr. died), Missionary Ridge, TN., Dug Gap, GA., Resaca, GA., Cassville, GA., New Hope Church, GA., Kennesaw Mountain, GA., Chattahoochee River, GA., Peachtree Creek, GA., Atlanta, GA., Jonesboro, GA., Franklin, TN., Nashville, TN., Orangeburg, S.C., Columbia, S.C., Kingston, N.C., Bentonville, N.C., Greensboro, N.C., April 26, 1865 surrender (Source: http://www.geocities.com/athens/agora/9743/)

13. John (Warren) Clay (b.5/21/1861, d.9/20/1928) married Jeannie Hammond 

  • Maude Clay Meyer (b. 1890 d. 1948)
  • Nannie Lou Clay “Mattie” (b.1/19/1896, d. 9/23/1921) married Ernest Howard
  • John Allen Clay (b. 5/7/1881, d.7/5/1937)
  • Hal Amicus Clay (b. 1888) married Maggie West 
  • Warren Cleveland Clay (b. 12/11/1893 d. 7/6/1949)
  • Horace Weldon Clay (b. a/1898)
  • Talmadge Clay (b. 7/4/1899)

Hal Amicus and Maggie West Clay were exhumed between 1970-1972 and moved to Atlanta’s Greenwood Cemetery. He was in a vault and she in a wooden coffin. Her coffin fragments and some bones were moved, with some bones reportedly left behind. They had been buried in Clay Cemetery in front of the “Clay” group stone. Their descendents did so because Kirkwood had become a “bad neighborhood” where they “couldn’t visit”. The Clay Cemetery itself had deteriorated significantly and family care for the site ended at about this time. (Source: Clay family oral history – Jean Delores Clay)

Maude Clay Meyer used to care for graves and plant flowers in Clay Cemetery. She assisted many Clay family members economically over the years. (Source: Clay family oral history – Jean Delores Clay)

Horace Weldon Clay owned and operated a nightclub. Both he and his son, Horace “Wimpy” Clay Jr. (a former Navy officer), owned private aircraft. They died in separate air crashes in the late 1940’s. Horace Jr. died first, in a crash into a home nearby the airport. Horace Sr. crashed at the airport itself. (Source: Clay family oral history – Jean Delores Clay)

14. Warren Cleveland Clay (b. 12/11/1893 d. 7/6/1949) Married: Anne Diehl (First Wife, Georgia)

  • Mary Anne Clay 
  • Warren Cleveland Clay Jr.
  • Lenore Clay 

Catharine F. Shannon (Second Wife, California)

  • Catharine Margaret Clay Harrell 
  • Jean Delores Clay (b. 1934)
  • Nancy Clay (twin)
  • Naomi Clay DeMartin (twin)

Warren Cleveland Clay grew up in Kirkwood and was a member of a local militia. In WW I he joined the U.S. Army at Camp Stafford, Louisiana, and served in France with the 35th Transportation Corps, returning to Kirkwood after the war and honorably discharged as a sergeant. He is named after Jesse’s son Cleveland and is his grandson. He ultimately moved to California and raised a second family there. (Sources: U.S. Government Military Record Summary, Clay family oral history – Jean Delores Clay, Official Service Records World War 1917-1919 Dekalb County, Volume I) .