Ancestral Family Topic 462

 462   James Clay (c.1721-1790)
Pedigree Chart 08

James Clay, in his own words
If he could speak to us today, James Clay might describe his life as follows.

I was the youngest son of Charles Clay of Chesterfield who gave me our family’s 250-acre home plantation in 1764. 
My wife, Margaret Muse, a devout Baptist, named two of our sons for these “dissenters,” as they were called: Jeremiah Walker who was jailed for preaching without a license, and Eleazer Clay. They say that Margaret would stand outside the jail to hear these “persecuted” ministers preach.
In 1782 Chesterfield listed me head of a family of 10. We then owned no slaves.  We sold our Chesterfield plantation in 1784 and the next year bought 150 acres on the south branches of Catawba Creek, Halifax County, from Daniel Carter. 
I died in Halifax County in 1790 and Margaret, in Mississippi, where she lived with two daughters, 13 February 1832. Of our 10 children, only Lydia who married Elisha Abbott stayed in Virginia. Three went to Missouri, 2 to Tennessee, 2 to North Carolina, and 2 to Mississippi.
Our grandson Clement Comer Clay was governor of Alabama and both he and his son were U.S. senators. A lady wrote a whole book about this family, The Clay’s of Alabama: A Planter-Lawyer-Politician Family.

Margaret Muse, who was born 2 April 1737, was apparently much younger than her husband, presuming that the date on her gravestone is correct. She was undoubtedly a descendant of the Muses of the Northern Neck, and we have tentatively placed her as a granddaughter of John Muse.
Chesterfield, an Old Virginia County, relates the exploits of the early Separate Baptists in Chesterfield County. 

James in Chesterfield County
James witnessed the wills of neighbors John Farley in 1754, Henry Walthall in 1766, Christopher Bass in 1772, and Henry Winfree in 1779.  Chesterfield County charged James Clay on one tithable in 1756 and 1762. 

His last will and testament
“In perfect sense and memory,” James Clay made his will in Halifax County 16 Feb. 1789 that was proved 27 June 1791.  His son William was the executor.

Will of James Clay
16 February 1789
I lend to my wife my plantation whereon I now live during her widowhood and when my son Eleazer Clay come of lawful age I give him the above mentioned plantation & land to him & his heirs forever, and that my wife & said son enjoy the benefit of the sd plantation as long as she remains my widow.
I lend unto my loving wife during her widowhood 1 Negro woman named Milley and all my household furniture & stock.
To my son Jeremiah Clay 50 acres adjacent to the sd plantation to him & do. do.
To my son James Clay 50 acres adjacent to the sd plantation to him & do. do.
To my daughter Bettie Nunnaly 5 s. she having received already.
All of my personal estate not before mentioned I give to all my children under the age of Betie Nunnaly to be equally divided.

William Vaughan, Henry Bass, and neighbor, Thomas Vaughan inventoried James’ estate and valued some cattle, household goods and furniture, plantation tools, 3 guns, and a sword at £79.10.9. 
On 9 Sept. 1800 Margaret Clay of Grainger County, Tennessee, and her son James Clay, living west of the Mississippi, gave a power of attorney to Eleazer Clay to sell the 150-acre Catawba Creek plantation. Margaret made her mark, X Her son Jeremiah Clay was in Clarke County, Ky., when he left Eleazer a similar power of attorney. 

Family recollections of Margaret Muse Clay
An obituary for Wilford Zachariah Lea included some family traditions regarding his grandmother, Margaret Muse Clay. Many are undoubtedly exaggerated and some facts are simply wrong. Nevertheless, it makes for interesting reading. 

Along with these immigrants came to our state, a woman of blessed memory, Mrs. Margaret Muse Clay, who was the grandmother of Wilford Zachariah Lea. She was born in Chesterfield County, Va., April 2, 1737 and died at Huron, Amite Co., Miss. Feb 13, 1832. About one hundred and fifteen years ago, she was accustomed in her native state (Virginia) to go and hear the persecuted Baptist preachers preach from the prison windows to those who would congregate outside jail. She became a convert, and to avoid persecution, was baptized in the night in James River, near Richmond. The ice was broken to make a place for the solemn ceremony, witnessed by the stars, and the few whose love for their Master cast out fear of the tribunal of men. But they cold not elude the watchfulness of the enemies of religious liberty, and being apprehended were sentenced, to pay a considerable fine or be publicly whipped at the post. Margaret Muse Clay could not pay this fine, and the public flogging for being a Baptist would have been administered to her, but for a kind-hearted one who paid the fine for her.
Margaret Muse Clay lived with Zachariah Lea, the father of Wilford Zachariah Lea. She gave thanks at the table and conducted family worship. She would sometimes have young Wilford kneel by her side and placing her hand on his head, would pray Heaven’s blessing on the youth of tender years. What a benediction to the boy! Ah, how lovely the grandmothers who speak to the dimple-cheeked flaxen haired little boys of the light they see coming over the Jasper Walls from the Throne of One whose “years shall not fail.” Mr. Winchester Everett of Amite County, Miss. has the old arm-chair (made of hand-hewn hickory and brought with her from Virginia) and the hymn book that belonged to Grandmother Clay, which he prizes for memories that cluster about them. Her remains rest in peace in the family burying ground of the Leas at Lea Hall, Amite Co., Miss.

Descendants of James Clay
Information about the children of James Clay, their descendants, and allied families previously found at is now available as Southside Virginia Genealogies. Learn more 
Names found in this topic include the following.
 William C. Clay (1760-1841),  
Capt. Edward Moseley,   Col. Robert Goode,   
Rebecca Comer,  Samuel Comer,  Thomas Hancock,  Matthew Gayle,   
Margaret Muse Clay,  John Bunch Jr.,  
Nancy Clay,  Epaphroditus Hightower Jr.,  
Maacah Clay,  William P. Kendrick,  
Clement Comer Clay,  Susanna Claiborne Withers,   
Clement Claiborne Clay,  
Samuel Anderson Clay,  
William Clay,  
Cynthia Clay,  William Barrett,  Alston Hunter Greene,  
 James Clay (-1830),  
Nancy Murdock,  Faithful Grimes,  
 Jeremiah Walker Clay (1756-1845),  
Rev. Jeremiah Walker,  Frances (Gardner) Johnston,  
Nancy (Thompson) Ott,  
Polly Clay,  
Johnson Clay,  Rebecca —,  
Sarah Thompson Clay,  
Abraham Collett Clay,  
Eliza Ann Clay,  
Nancy Clay,  
Frances Green Clay,  
William Henry Clay,  
Mary Clay,  
Andrew Jackson Clay,  
Martha Jane Clay,  
William Clay,  
Green Clay,  
John Gardner Clay,  Margaret Miller,  
Elizabeth Clay,  
Louise Clay,  
Sabrina Clay,  
Mahala Clay,  
James Monro Clay,  
Eleazer Clay,  
Margaret Muse Clay,  
James Lee Clay,  
 Martha (Clay) Johnson (c.1774-),  
Thomas Johnston,  
 Elizabeth (Clay) Nunnally,  
Henry Nunnally,  
Henry Nunnally,  
Sophia Nunnally,  Charles Yarbrough Oliver,  
John Nunnally,  
Willis Nunnally,  
 Lydia (Clay) Abbott (c.1770-1844),  
Elisha Abbott,   James Clay,   Hopkins Muse,   
 Mary (Clay) Sibley,  
Elijah Sibley,  
William Clay Sibley,  
Gabriel Sibley,  
Elizabeth Sibley,  Hines,  
 Eleazer Clay (1779-1863),  
Mary Dunville,  
 Nancy (Clay) Lea (1780-1858),  
David Lea,  
Luke Lea,  Elizabeth Wilson,  James Lea,  Anne Tolbert,  
Margaret Muse Lea,  Agrippa Gayden,  
Wesley Wilson Lea,  
Wilson Dixon Lea,  Virginia Caroline Kemp,  
Winchester Muse Lea,  
Landon Ludwell Lea,  Emily Robinson,  Charlsey Jane Edwards,  
Martha Melissa Lea,  William McMatthews,  John W. Courtney,  
James Monroe Lea,  
Robert Montgomery Lea,  Letty Edwards,  
Mary Reed Lea,  Thomas Gordon,  Samuel Lee,  
David Clay Lea,  Nancy Edwards,  
Julia Clay Lea,  
Charles Clinton Lea,  
 Sabrina (Clay) Lea (1783-1842),  
Zachariah Lea,  
Elizabeth Wilson Lea,  John W. Firth,  John Everett,  
Isabella Lea,  Hon. Jehu Wall,  Richard Bates,  
Lucinda Clay Lea,  John Richmond,  
Hampton Muse Lea,  
Alfred Muse Lea,  Elizabeth Garner,  
Nancy Lea,  Aaron Robinson,  
Wilford Zachariah Lea,  Rachel Powell,  
James Everett Lea,  Frances Powell,  
Iverson Green Lea,  
Margaret A. Lea,  

This family topic includes the following notable individuals.
Soldiers of colonial and American wars
William C. Clay - Revolutionary War  

Members of congress - U.S. and Confederate
Clement Comer Clay - U.S. Clement Claiborne Clay - U.S.
Clement Claiborne Clay - Confederate  

Governors - colonial, territorial, and state
Clement Comer Clay - Alabama  

Legislators - colonial and state
Clement Comer Clay - Alabama Clement Claiborne Clay - Alabama

Names on the map
Lea Springs, Grainger County, Tennessee, named for Luke Lea  

Selected sources
Armstrong, Zella. Notable Southern Families. Spartanburg, South Carolina: The Reprint Company, 1974(3):71-83. • Includes information on the Lea family, including David Lea who married Nancy Clay and Zachariah Lea who married Sabrina Clay.
Clay Family Association. Clay Family Quarterly. Houston: Clay Family Association. 1:9, 21, 32, 51A, 63A (1975). • A collection of information on the descendants of John Clay, including the family Bibles of Jeremiah Walker Clay and his son Johnson Clay.
Dorman, John Frederick. Adventurers of Purse and Person Virginia 1607-1624/5, Fourth Edition. Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc. 2004. Volume One, pages 643-698. • Family of John Clay, including Charles Clay, Charles Clay, and James Clay.
Nuermberger, Ruth Ketring. The Clay’s of Alabama: A Planter-Lawyer-Politician Family. University of Kentucky Press, 1958. • Historical material Clement Comer Clay and his son Clement Claiborne Clay.
Rigsby, L.W. Historic Georgia Families. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc. 1969. • This volume includes two very long articles on the Clays of Virginia. The obituary of Wilford Zachariah Lea that relates some family traditions of his grandmother is included.
Saunders, Col. James Edmonds. Early Settlers of Alabama. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1982:288-291. • Historical material regarding Clement Comer Clay and his son Clement Claiborne Clay.

This topic, which represents .16% of all the family history material at, includes 28 citations and the names of 136 individuals.
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