Clay County
Clay County Courthouse
Clay County Courthouse
Flag of Clay County
Official seal of Clay County
Motto: 
In God We Trust
Map of Florida highlighting Clay County
Location within the U.S. state of Florida
Map of the United States highlighting Florida
Florida's location within the U.S.
Coordinates: 29°59′N 81°52′W / 29.98°N 81.86°W / 29.98; -81.86
Country United States
State Florida
FoundedDecember 31, 1858
Named forHenry Clay
SeatGreen Cove Springs
Largest cityLakeside
Area
 • Total644 sq mi (1,667 km2)
 • Land604 sq mi (1,566 km2)
 • Water39 sq mi (101 km2)  6.1%
Population
 • Estimate 
(2022)
226,589
 • Density375/sq mi (145/km2)
Time zoneUTC−5 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−4 (EDT)
ZIP Codes
32003, 32043, 32065, 32068, 32073, 32079, 32091, 32234, 32656, 32666
Area code352, 904
Congressional district4th
Websitewww.claycountygov.com

Clay County is located in the northeastern part of the U.S. state of Florida along the west bank of the St. Johns River. As of 2020, the population was 218,245 and in 2022, that number increased to 226,589, making it the third largest county in the Jacksonville metropolitan area.[2] While most of the county is unincorporated, there are 4 municipalities with Green Cove Springs being the county seat and the unincorporated Lakeside CDP being the largest place.[3] It is named in honor of Henry Clay, a famous American statesman, member of the United States Senate from Kentucky, and United States Secretary of State in the 19th century.[4][5]

Since 1990, Clay County has transformed into a largely suburban county with the third highest household median income in Florida behind neighboring St. Johns County and Santa Rosa County.[6] This transformation has come as workers from Jacksonville, and to a smaller extent other nearby cities such as St. Augustine and Gainesville, have moved into newly built residential subdivisions. Over half of workers living in Clay County work in another county, which is the highest rate of any county in Florida. As such, the county has the third highest average commute time in the state at almost 33 minutes.[6] With the population expected to surpass 300,000 residents by 2040, projects such as the First Coast Expressway are being constructed to alleviate chronic congestion on major roadways in the county such as Blanding Blvd and U.S. 17.[7]

Clay County is known for its rich military history with major current and former installations such as Branan Air Field, Naval Air Station Green Cove Springs, and Camp Blanding all being located in the county. The county also attracts many tourists due to its abundance of natural water features. Many notable lakes such as Kingsley Lake, Lake Asbury, Doctors Lake, Lake Geneva, and Lake Brooklyn are all located in the county. Black Creek begins at the St. Johns River just north of Green Cove Springs and runs through the central portion of the county.

History

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Early in the 19th century, Zephaniah Kingsley built his prosperous Laurel Grove Plantation, planting oranges and trading slaves, where Orange Park is today.

Clay County was created on December 31, 1858, from a section of Duval County. The area was once a popular destination for tourists because of its springs and mild climate. Steamboats brought them to various hotels in Green Cove Springs, such as the St. Elmo, Clarendon, and Oakland. President Grover Cleveland was the most prominent of such tourists and had spring water shipped to the White House.[8] Clay County's popularity among tourists peaked during the last three decades of the 19th century. Tourism later waned because of Henry Flagler's extension of the Florida East Coast Railway to other destinations such as Palm Beach and Miami.

The military has also played an important role in Clay County history. In 1939, Camp Blanding opened on Kingsley Lake in southwest Clay County. The Florida National Guard developed this 28,000-acre (110 km2) complex. During World War II, it trained over 90,000 troops and became the fourth-largest "city" in the state. In Green Cove Springs, Lee Field was a flight training center. After World War II, Lee Field became a base for the mothball fleet. Although Lee Field closed in the early 1960s, Camp Blanding continues to operate today as a base for military training. Clay County is also a popular choice of residence for military personnel stationed on bases in nearby Duval County (NAS Jacksonville, NS Mayport, and, before it closed, NAS Cecil Field).

Geography

Mouth of Black Creek where it meets the St. Johns River with the U.S. 17 bridge in the background
Doctors Lake in Fleming Island

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 644 square miles (1,670 km2), of which 604 square miles (1,560 km2) are land and 39 square miles (100 km2) (6.1%) are covered by water.[9] The average elevation in Clay County is 95 feet above sea level with the highest point, located on the western border in Camp Blanding, being 259 feet.[10] The southwestern portion of the county features many lakes which contribute to the Floridan Aquifer and are an important source of water for the surrounding region. During the 2000s, high growth rates in Northeast Florida caused many of the lakes to dry up as demand for water increased. To combat this, a project began in August 2022 to construct a pipeline from Black Creek in the central part of the county to Alligator Creek in Keystone Heights. This pipeline is expected to restore the water levels in the lakes to their former high points.[11]

Clay County is home to Goldhead Branch State Park, Belmore State Forest, and Jennings State Forest. These protected areas provide critical habitat to many native species of plants and animals, as well as provide a buffer around Camp Blanding from surrounding development.[12]

Adjacent counties

Transportation

Airports

Railroads

Major highways

Before the opening of the first segment of the First Coast Expressway in 2019, Clay County was the largest county in Florida without a limited-access highway. Once complete, this project will connect Interstate 10 in Jacksonville with Interstate 95 in St. Johns County and will result in the replacement of the current Shands Bridge with a new, expanded bridge.[13]

Public Transportation

Demographics

Historical population
CensusPop.Note
18601,914
18702,0989.6%
18802,83835.3%
18905,15481.6%
19005,6359.3%
19106,1168.5%
19205,621−8.1%
19306,85922.0%
19406,468−5.7%
195014,323121.4%
196019,53536.4%
197032,05964.1%
198067,052109.2%
1990105,98658.1%
2000140,81432.9%
2010190,86535.5%
2020218,24514.3%
2022 (est.)226,5893.8%
U.S. Decennial Census[15]
1790-1960[16] 1900-1990[17]
1990-2000[18] 2010-2019[19]

2022 Census Estimates

Clay County, FL Demographic Profile[20]
Racial Composition 2022[21] 2020 2010 2000
White alone (non-Hispanic) 69.3% 68.3% 77.2% 84.9%
Black alone (non-Hispanic) 12.7% 11.7% 9.5% 6.6%
Hispanic or Latino 11.4% 10.6% 7.7% 4.3%
Asian alone (non-Hispanic) 3.1% 3% 2.8% 2%
Other Race alone (non-Hispanic) 0.6% 1% 0.6% 0.6%
Two or more races (non-Hispanic) 2.9% 5.4% 2.2% 1.6%
Population 226,589 218,245 190,865 140,814

According to 2022 census estimates, Clay County's population increased to 226,589. This increase was fueled exclusively by in-migration to the county. In all, 9,101 people have moved to Clay County since 2020 with over 95% of that growth coming from domestic migration.[22]

Since 2020, the county has experienced 5,643 deaths compared to 4,846 births resulting in a natural change of -797. This has corresponded with an increase in the median age to 40.5 years.[22]

2020 Census

As of the 2020 United States census, there were 218,245 people, 75,360 households, and 57,587 families residing in the county. Hispanic or Latino residents comprised 10.6% of the population or 23,134 individuals. Among those not Hispanic or Latino, 159,922 (73.3%) were White alone or in combination, 29,317 (13.4%) were Black alone or in combination, 9,510 (4.4%) were Asian alone or in combination, 4,855 (2.2%) were American Indian or Alaska Native alone or in combination, and 3,234 (1.5%) were some other race alone or in combination.

There were 85,049 housing units of which 78,939 (92.8%) were occupied.

2021 American Community Survey

According to the 2021 ACS,[23] the median age in Clay County was 40.9 years. 25.6% of residents were 0–19 years, 11.4% were 20–29, 13% were 30–39, 13.3% were 40–49, 14.1% were 50–59, and 22.6% were 60 years and over.

There were 80,459 households in the county, of which 31.9% had children under 18 living with them, 54.6% were married couples living together, and 38.3% were individual householders with no spouse or partner present. The average household size was 2.75 and the average family size was 3.15.

The median income for a household in the county was $76,679, and the median income for a family was $85,196. Males had a median income of $47,393 versus $35,103 for females. The per capita income was $33,364. About 7.1% of the population were below the poverty line including 13.5% of those under age 18 and 6% of those age 65 and over.

The ten largest reported ancestry groups in the county were Irish (11.7%), English (11.6%), German (10.7%), American (4.7%), Italian (3.5%), Scottish (3.1%), French (2.2%), Polish (1.9%), European (1.5%), and Scotch-Irish (1.1%).

45% of residents were born in Florida and 46% were born in another state. The majority of in-migration comes from other Southern states and the Northeast. There is a growing community of Puerto Ricans in Clay County, with the number of residents born on the island numbering 3,590.

Clay County has the second highest percentage of Filipino immigrants in Florida, after neighboring Duval County, with 1.1% of residents hailing from the Philippines. In total, 6.1% of residents were foreign-born with over 68% being naturalized citizens and the majority entering the United States prior to 2010.

Top countries of origin for foreign-born population in Clay County, FL [3]
Foreign-born

Population in Clay County

Percentage of

Clay County Population

Foreign-born

Population in Florida

Percentage of

Florida Population

Philippines 2,449 1.1% 88,318 0.4%
Mexico 1,097 0.5% 287,765 1.3%
Cuba 715 0.3% 973,959 4.5%
Haiti 645 0.3% 341,943 1.6%
Peru 534 0.3% 89,858 0.4%
Canada 492 0.2% 94,586 0.4%
El Salvador 489 0.2% 43,975 0.2%
Guatemala 436 0.2% 102,110 0.5%
India 429 0.2% 97,800 0.5%
China 408 0.2% 48,308 0.2%
Language Spoken at Home 2019[3] 2010[3] 2000[3] 1980[24]
English 89.3% 90.5% 92.3% 96.4%
Spanish 6.4% 5.2% 4.2% 1.4%
Tagalog 1.4% 1% 0.9% 0.3%
German or West Germanic Languages 0.6% 0.4% 0.5% 0.4%
French, Haitian, or Cajun 0.5% 0.6% 0.5% 0.4%
Other Languages 1.8% 2.3% 1.6% 1.1%

Government

Clay County's large population in unincorporated areas is served by the Clay County Sheriff's Office and Clay County Fire & Rescue. The current Sheriff, Michelle Cook (R), was elected in 2020.

Board of County Commissioners

Clay County's government is led by a five-member Board of County Commissioners, each elected from a single-member district. The county commission appoints a County Manager as chief administrative officer of the county. Howard Wannamaker currently serves as the County Manager. The current office holders are,

Federal Representation

All of Clay County is located in Florida's 4th Congressional District of the U.S. House of Representatives. The current representative is Aaron Bean (R).

State Representation

Clay County is located in Florida's 6th Senate District represented by Senator Jennifer Bradley (R). In the Florida House of Representatives, District 11 is located entirely within the northern portion of the county and is represented by Sam Garrison (R). Florida House District 20 covers the central and southern parts of the county and is represented by Bobby Payne (R).

Politics

Voter registration

According to the Florida Department of State, Republicans account for a majority of registered voters in Clay County.

Clay County Voter Registration & Party Enrollment as of July 31, 2023[25]
Political Party Total Voters Percentage
Republican 88,580 53.82%
Democratic 34,374 20.89%
Independent 38,089 23.14%
Third Parties 3,531 2.15%
Total 164,574 100%

Statewide elections

Politically, Clay County is one of the most reliably Republican counties in the state during presidential elections outside of the Panhandle. It last supported a Democrat for president in 1960, and Jimmy Carter is the last Democrat to manage even 40 percent of the county's vote. However, conservative Democrats continued to hold most state and local offices well into the 1980s.

United States presidential election results for Clay County, Florida[26]
Year Republican Democratic Third party
No.  % No.  % No.  %
2020 84,480 67.77% 38,317 30.74% 1,863 1.49%
2016 74,963 69.85% 27,822 25.93% 4,532 4.22%
2012 70,022 72.33% 25,759 26.61% 1,024 1.06%
2008 67,203 70.95% 26,697 28.18% 823 0.87%
2004 62,078 76.17% 18,971 23.28% 446 0.55%
2000 41,903 72.80% 14,668 25.48% 988 1.72%
1996 30,370 64.49% 13,259 28.16% 3,463 7.35%
1992 26,360 57.95% 10,610 23.33% 8,515 18.72%
1988 25,942 76.67% 7,773 22.97% 122 0.36%
1984 21,571 79.72% 5,489 20.28% 0 0.00%
1980 15,643 64.85% 7,630 31.63% 849 3.52%
1976 8,468 49.38% 8,410 49.04% 270 1.57%
1972 10,467 85.53% 1,748 14.28% 23 0.19%
1968 3,251 35.14% 1,954 21.12% 4,046 43.74%
1964 3,805 54.99% 3,114 45.01% 0 0.00%
1960 2,515 47.97% 2,728 52.03% 0 0.00%
1956 2,372 53.67% 2,048 46.33% 0 0.00%
1952 2,116 49.07% 2,196 50.93% 0 0.00%
1948 722 26.33% 1,544 56.31% 476 17.36%
1944 520 29.36% 1,251 70.64% 0 0.00%
1940 498 25.08% 1,488 74.92% 0 0.00%
1936 562 31.00% 1,251 69.00% 0 0.00%
1932 556 30.20% 1,285 69.80% 0 0.00%
1928 1,088 72.05% 394 26.09% 28 1.85%
1924 171 28.84% 339 57.17% 83 14.00%
1920 486 43.28% 558 49.69% 79 7.03%
1916 79 14.29% 380 68.72% 94 17.00%
1912 26 6.67% 279 71.54% 85 21.79%
1908 122 21.86% 355 63.62% 81 14.52%
1904 50 15.38% 247 76.00% 28 8.62%
1900 91 21.02% 308 71.13% 34 7.85%
1896 230 37.64% 355 58.10% 26 4.26%
1892 0 0.00% 404 85.41% 69 14.59%
Previous gubernatorial elections results
Year Republican Democratic Third parties
2022 74.69% 67,292 24.60% 22,187 0.71% 640
2018 68.89% 64,401 30.11% 28,150 0.99% 931
2014 72.40% 49,330 23.41% 15,948 4.19% 2,861
2010 69.97% 44,547 27.09% 17,246 2.94% 1,874
2006 73.00% 37,632 24.46% 12,610 2.54% 1,309
2002 77.38% 39,347 22.09% 11,233 0.53% 272
1998 76.29% 26,585 23.71% 8,261 0.00% 2
1994 70.86% 24,290 29.13% 9,986 0.00% 1

Museums

Education

The Clay County School District operates 42 public schools, with currently 28 elementary schools, five junior high schools, six high schools, and one junior/senior high school.

As of the 2021-22 school year, the school district received an "A" grade from the Florida Department of Education and was ranked the tenth top school district in the state.[27] In 2023, U.S. News and World Report ranked Fleming Island High School the top high school in Clay County and 91st in Florida.[28]

Libraries

The Clay County Public Library System consists of five branches:

The first public library in Clay County was made up of a small collection established by the Village Improvement Association within the county.[29] Other small libraries were established by other organizations within Clay County. In 1961, representatives from different women's organizations in the county started a movement to establish a library system within the county, and resulted in the Clay County Board of County Commissioners beginning to set aside funds to create the county library system.[29] Due to their efforts, the first public library in Clay County was opened in 1961 in Green Cove Springs.[29] The Green Cove Springs Library purchased a bookmobile in 1962 and began to provide outreach services to different areas within Clay County that same year.[29] In 1962 two more public libraries opened in Clay County, the Keystone Heights Library and the Orange Park Library.[29] A fire destroyed the Keystone Heights Library in February 1962.[29] The Keystone Heights Library was relocated to a new building in Theme Park in 1964.[29] The Headquarters Library in Green Cove Springs became open to the public in 1970 after a population boom caused the need for a new library.[29] In 1976, the Orange Park Library moved to a larger location within the town of Orange Park.[29] The population growth experienced in the county during the late 1970s necessitated the development of the Middleburg-Clay Hill Library, which first opened in a storefront in the late 1970s.[29] The permanent facility for this library was completed and opened to the public in 1986.[29]

Communities

Cities

Towns

Census-designated places

Other unincorporated communities

See also

References

  1. ^ https://www2.census.gov/geo/docs/maps-data/data/gazetteer/2020_Gazetteer/2020_gaz_counties_12.txt
  2. ^ Bureau, US Census. "County Population Totals and Components of Change: 2020-2022". Census.gov. Retrieved March 30, 2023.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Explore Census Data". data.census.gov. Retrieved March 30, 2023.
  4. ^ Publications of the Florida Historical Society. Florida Historical Society. 1908. p. 30.
  5. ^ Gannett, Henry (1905). The Origin of Certain Place Names in the United States. Govt. Print. Off. pp. 83.
  6. ^ a b "Explore Census Data". data.census.gov. Retrieved March 31, 2023.
  7. ^ "First Coast Expressway Built to Handle Growth in Clay County, Fla. : CEG". www.constructionequipmentguide.com. Retrieved March 31, 2023.
  8. ^ Florida; a Guide to the Southern-Most State. US History Publishers. 1939. p. 352. ISBN 978-1-62376-009-0. Retrieved December 17, 2019.
  9. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. February 12, 2011. Retrieved April 23, 2011.
  10. ^ "Clay County topographic map, elevation, terrain". Topographic maps. Retrieved March 31, 2023.
  11. ^ Swirko, Cindy. "Water district launches Keystone Heights recharge project". Gainesville Sun. Retrieved March 31, 2023.
  12. ^ "North Florida Land Trust has acquired 400 acres for conservation in Clay County". 104.5 WOKV. October 6, 2022. Retrieved March 31, 2023.
  13. ^ "First Coast Expressway expected completion by 2030, includes new bridge over St. Johns River". firstcoastnews.com. May 24, 2023. Retrieved September 4, 2023.
  14. ^ a b "Clay Community Transportation | Clay County, FL". www.claycountygov.com. Retrieved September 4, 2023.
  15. ^ "U.S. Decennial Census". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved June 13, 2014.
  16. ^ "Historical Census Browser". University of Virginia Library. Archived from the original on August 11, 2012. Retrieved June 13, 2014.
  17. ^ "Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved June 13, 2014.
  18. ^ "Census 2000 PHC-T-4. Ranking Tables for Counties: 1990 and 2000" (PDF). United States Census Bureau. Retrieved June 13, 2014.
  19. ^ "State & County QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved June 22, 2019.
  20. ^ "Explore Census Data". data.census.gov. Retrieved September 4, 2023.
  21. ^ Bureau, US Census. "County Population by Characteristics: 2020-2022". Census.gov. Retrieved September 5, 2023.
  22. ^ a b Bureau, US Census. "County Population Totals and Components of Change: 2020-2022". Census.gov. Retrieved September 6, 2023.
  23. ^ "Explore Census Data". data.census.gov. Retrieved September 4, 2023.
  24. ^ "General Social and Economic Characteristics FLORIDA 1980 Census of Population" (PDF). U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved September 4, 2023.
  25. ^ "Florida DOS Voter Registration Statistics". Archived from the original on April 6, 2019. Retrieved September 26, 2019.
  26. ^ Leip, David. "Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections". uselectionatlas.org. Retrieved June 13, 2018.
  27. ^ Solodev (November 22, 2022). "Florida School Accountability Reports". www.fldoe.org. Retrieved September 16, 2023.
  28. ^ "These 8 First Coast high schools just made U.S. News rankings of Florida's top 50 schools". The Florida Times-Union. Retrieved September 16, 2023.
  29. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Clay County Public Library System". Retrieved November 16, 2017.

29°59′N 81°52′W / 29.98°N 81.86°W / 29.98; -81.86