Clay County Organized 1825:
At the legislative of 1825, nine years after the admission of the state to union. Clay County was organized from sections of Owen and Vigo counties and was named for Kentucky statesman, Henry Clay.
The county’s earliest settlement preceded its formation by almost a decade. David Thomas came to the area in 1818 and was followed soon after by Samuel Rizley. The majority of Clay County’s settlement activity centered along the Eel River which flows through the central part of the county. It was near this river that the community of Bowling Green wasestablished. Named the county seat following Clay County’s organization, Bowling Green was the only community in the county founded before 1830.
The first Courthouse was built in the newly platted town of Bowling Green in 1828, soon after Clay County was formed by the Indiana legislature. It was a two story structure of hand hewn logs.
By the late 1830’s Clay County had grown to the extent that the first Courthouse could no longer provide adequate facilities. Therefore a second Courthouse was constructed near the first Courthouse. This was a two story brick structure. This Courthouse served until destroyed by fire on the night of November 30, 1851.
Although some citizens believed Bowling Green was no longer the most practical or logical site for a new courthouse, the commissioners quickly decided to build the third courthouse on the site of the previous one in Bowling Green. Built of brick, at a cost of $11,000, and very similar to the previous courthouse, the new Courthouse began serving the county in the Fall of 1853.
By the 1860’s the towns of Harmony, Knightsville, and Brazil were growing rapidly, due in part to their location along the National Road, and also because of the many coal companies in that section of the county. An effort to move the county seat of government to a more central location, which had begun in the 1850’s, grew stronger creating controversy among citizens. In the 1860’s citizens in the northern section of Clay County became more organized in their efforts.
In 1871 brothers Robert and John Stewart donated a tract of land along the National Road in Brazil for proposed site of the new courthouse. The sum of $5,300 was also raised by citizens in the area to entice the commissioners to move the seat of government from Bowling Green to Brazil. This amount was reportedly the value of the existing courthouse and grounds, thus defusing opponents argument that abandoning the present courthouse would be a waste of taxpayers money. The relocation efforts, which began in 1871, were challenged in the Supreme Court. The relocation was finally granted in 1876.
In 1912 John W. Gaddis, a prominent architect in Vincennes, Indiana, entered into a contract with the County Commissioners to design, plan, and oversee the construction of a new courthouse. The construction bid of W.H. Bailey and Charles A. Koemer of Louisville, Kentucky was accepted in 1912 with the cornerstone being laid in the fall of 1912. Gaddis had successfully completed several others: in Fairfield and Robinson, Illinois: Perryville, Missouri and two in Indiana, the Putnam County Courthouse in Greencastle (1905) and the Huntington County Courthouse (1906) in Huntington, which are also in Classical Revival mode.
The Clay County Courthouse built in 1913-1914, is one of the most historically and architecturally significant buildings in Brazil and Clay County, Indiana. Built in Classical Revival style of architecture, it is the only building in Clay County holding county government offices and records. It is also located along side the famed National Road (Cumberland Trail).The present Courthouse is the fifth Courthouse to serve the people of Clay County,
In 1986, a grass roots restoration effort was introduced by Clay Circuit Judge Ernest Yelton. The primary purpose of that effort was to restore the beautiful stained glass dome to its original beauty. Embraced by the Clay Civic Memorial Foundation, a fundraising project entitled "CODFISH" (Clay Officials Dedicated For Improving Stained Glass Heritage) was undertaken and successfully raised $30,000.00. The project was awarded to Kiser Glass of Indianapolis.
During the restoration project, workmen discovered that wooden panels had been placed in circular openings in the four sides of the dome where clocks could be installed. Through the years this knowledge had been forgotten. A second fund-raiser was immediately initiated by Clay Civic Memorial Foundation to pay for clocks and their installation. The funds were raised quickly, all by Memorial gifts. Four lighted clocks were installed by the Omega Clock Company of Indianapolis at a cost of $18,500, electrified by Scott Electrical Services of Brazil, Indiana, and were in operation by November 26, 1986.