Ashland has a special place in my heart. It is a pretty country town with a
lot to see.
Each trip back to the area is filled with wonderful memories of
my childhood. I remember as a child riding in the back of my dad's pickup
truck going through downtown Ashland headed to Concord Baptist Church for
the annual "Get Together." I can only image what would be said today if
people saw me in the back of his truck, but we survived.
Ashland, the county seat of Clay County, Alabama, has a population of 2,037 according to the 2010 census.
Clay County was formed by an act of the Alabama General Assembly on December 7, 1866. Less than a year later, Ashland was established as the county seat on land donated by Hollingsworth Watts for the construction of a courthouse. Ashland was incorporated in 1871 and was named for 19th century statesman Henry Clay's Kentucky estate home.
You know sometimes things just happen. As I was putting the previous paragraph together, the name "Watts" just jumped out at me. My mother was a Watts and now I have a new challenge - to see if Hollingsworth Watts is a relative. And as Paul Harvey would say, "and here is the rest of the story."
During the early years, the town grew very rapidly. The town continued to grow with the opening of Alabama's first graphite mine in 1899. When World War I ended, the market for graphite dropped drastically, thus ending the town's growth phase.
One of the newest attractions in Clay County in the 1920s, was the chicken business - millions of chickens and eggs and long chicken houses In or about 1921, Reverend Secelar Claxton Ray took one hundred, day-old chicks to the Clay County Fair and put them under an oil burning brooder and called attention to the advantage of using chickens on the farm to supplement the 'all cotton' cash crop. This was something new, but it did gradually got the attention of the local farmers. He was now fully in the poultry business, and named it Goodwill Poultry Farm and Hatchery. He bought houses then idle at the local graphite mines in Clay County and hired neighbors in their spare time and built the hatchery and chicken houses and an extra tenant house on the farm, southeast of Ashland, Alabama whose population of close to one thousand had grown considerably from two hundred in 1881.
The 1930s brought the Great Depression and boll weevil to Ashland that destroyed the cotton industry. Farmers were forced to abandon what had been the community's major industry. Timber, poultry, and cabinet making became the dominant industries by the beginning of the 21st century.
Two of Ashland's famous are: Hugo Black, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1937 until 1971. His first law office was on the square in Ashland; and Bob Riley, Alabama's 52nd governor.