For three manifest reasons, the history of Clay township must necessarily be short. First, the township itself
is small, and unless something remarkable be connected with it, it could not have a lengthy and elaborate history.
Secondly, it was not organized as a township until 1840, and therefore everything concerning its early history,
particularly concerning the names of early settlers of the township up to that year, will be included in the history
of German township. And thirdly, the most important thing in connection with Clay township, and indeed, in all
probability, in connection with St. Joseph county, namely its educational interests, including Notre Dame University
and St. Mary's Academy, has been included in the State and county history of this work.
At the June session of the Board of County Commissioners in 1840, an order was passed constituting Clay a separate
township, and it was named after Henry Clay, who was just in the prime of his political glory. The first election
in the township was held in "Brooks' barn," now burned down, then on section 30. The first justices of
the peace of Clay township were Jonathan Hardy and Samuel Brooks.
During the early settlement of German township, that part of it lying east of the St. Joseph river, which is now
Clay township, did not settle very rapidly until about 1837-'8. The first settlement was along the eastern bank
of the St. Joseph river, where John Eyler, Lambert McCombs and John Weaver, a German Baptist preacher, together
with a few other families, located. From that time to the present the population has gradually increased, and at
the last census it was 1,476. At present the citizens are mostly Germans.
Clay township is 38 north, range 3 east, is situated in the northern part of St. Joseph county, and is bounded
on the north by the State of Michigan, on the east by Harris and Penn townships, on the south by Penn and Portage,
and on the west by the St. Joseph river, beyond which lies German township. Nearly all of the land is broken, or
marsh, or timbered land, and across the southwestern part flows a small stream branching off from the St. Joseph
river on the west. Across the western part runs a branch of the Michigan Central railroad, connecting South Bend
and Niles, Mich. The sections of the township are somewhat irregular,a part of the northern road being in Michigan;
and on the west the line is very irregular, owing to the fact that when the township was organized, the St. Joseph
river was made the western boundary. At present a large and substantial wooden bridge is in process of erection
across the river, from section 23, connecting Clay and German townships.
There is a grist mill on section 23, on the river, owned by John F. Curly, of South Bend. At present the mill is
not running; it was built several years ago by Jonas Harris. Prior to the erection of the grist mill by Mr. Harris,
Mr. Weaver had built a sawmill on the same location; Mr. Weaver also had a carding machine and fulling mill, and
for a time did quite an extensive business; but these were afterward removed, and their place supplied by the present
grist mill. There was also at one time a fulling mill near where St. Mary's college now stands, run by a man named
Graham. And at one time in the history of the township, S. Ulery ran a carding machine. But these have all long
since been dispensed with, and today there is very little or nothing to add to the business interests of the township
by way of mills or villages, there being but one of the former, and none of the latter. But villages in Clay township
are not necessary, as it is conveniently and closely situated to South Bend. Politically, the township is Democratic.
CHURCHES AND CEMETERIES.
There is only one church in Clay township besides the Catholic, a history of which is given in connection with
its college. It is a German Baptist organization, and the church building is located on section 24. It was erected
in 1868 by means of individual donations. The first pastors of the church were Jacob Cripe and Christian Wenger.
The present pastor is John B. Wrightsman. The congregation at first was quite small, but is now respectable in
number, and is increasing, including mangy of the highly respected citizens of Clay township.
There are three public cemeteries in the township; one on section 25 near the German Baptist church; one on section
30, known as the Township Cemetery, and another in connection with Notre Dame University, situated near it and
on the land owned by that institution.
The first school ever taught in the township was on section 23, in Mr. Eyler's house. Charles Murray, a married
man from "Dutch Island," in Harris township, whom the patrons of the immediate neighborhood hired, was
the first teacher. The first school house in the township was built on section 28, and Daniel A. Veasey was probably
the first teacher. However, the scarcity of school houses and school funds did not long continue in Clay township;
and today its citizens can say without hesitation; and without any fear of contradiction, that they have better
school houses than any township in the county, and indeed as good as any in the State. In the township there are
six excellent school buildings, all brick, with stone foundations. They are conveniently located throughout the
entire township, and are known by number and by name. In them are furnished to the children nine months of school
annually. Although a great part of the farming land of the township is rather poor, yet this one distinctive characteristic
of it will suffice to place Clay township among the foremost ones in the county, and the inhabitants may justly
attribute this to the unceasing labors of their last two school trustees, namely, Thomas Eaton, who held that office
for a number of years, and George Stover, the present incumbent.
But here, in the progress of this subject, let the reader stop and reflect. Were he unacquainted with the educational
interests of the township, he would doubtless think that what had already been said concerning them, was in part
flattery, but not so. What would be his surprise upon learning that not one tithe has yet been mentioned; for here
in the southwestern part of this township are located two mighty literary institutions, St. Mary's and Notre Dame,
two powerful dispensaries of charity and intelligence, whose names are household words throughout all the neighboring
But here we forbear from making further mention and giving a more elaborate history of those institutions, as it
is given complete in the State and county history of this volume. And then, including these institutions under
the head of schools, we can now safely say that the educational interests of Clay township are second to none in
the State of Indiana.