"The Case of the Vanishing Ton!"
On March 24, 1873, the state legislature merged the North part of Greene county with the Eastern part of Randolph county to create a new political unit! The representative from Greene County, Benjamin Crowley, sponsored the bill but the Republican Legislature gave no cooperation until Senator John M. Clayton, representative from Pine Bluff agreed to push the bill in return for having the new county bear the name of Clayton. And so it came to pass! Only two years later on December 5, 1875, the Legislature dropped the Ton and our county became Clay, honoring Henry Clay of Kentucky who had rather be right than President! What had happened in the interval to compel the Legislature to switch Godfathers! The solution is found in the Reconstruction Period of our state's history!
We begin in 1868 with the election of Powell Clayton, older brother of John M., to the gubernatorial chair by the Republicans. Although the government of the state had been reorganized by Abraham Lincoln on April 11, 1864, with Isaac Murphy as governor, and the state affairs were almost back to normal, The Reconstruction Act passed by Congress in 1867 included Arkansas in one of the five military districts set up in the seceded states. The constitution adopted in 1864, was set aside. A new constitution was adopted under military supervision, in 1868 as Powell Clayton was proclaimed Governor. Back in the Union for the second time registration of voters for the 1868 Presidential election were nearly completed when governor Clayton arbitrarily set aside the registrations in 12 counties -1400 voters were disenfranchised. The public resentment of the high handed act was state wide and the day after Grant was elected, the Governor put 14 counties under martial law. Four military districts were set up and lists of "bad characters" largely the best citizens of the counties, were sent from the Governor's headquarters with directors for areas and summary treatment. The military far exceeded the bounds of authority and the state was in uproar. In October 1868 the governor purchased 4000 rifles. Enroute to the State on the packet Hesperus, the guns were tossed into the Mississippi River by masked men who boarded the Hesperus 20 miles below Memphis. By this time the state Republicans had split into separate camps. The minstrl pro- and the Brindks anti-Clayton. Appointed to the U. S. Senate in 1869, Gov. Clayton recommended that the legislature which met January 2, 1871, remove voting disabilities of all Confederates and left Washington. But his clemency came too late for him to be either forgotten or forgiven.