Spanning just 149 square miles, Clayton County is one of Georgia’s smallest counties, but it is one of most densely populated counties in the state. Clayton County was formed out of portions of Fayette and Henry Counties on November 30, 1858 becoming the 125th county in Georgia. The county is named after Augustine Smith Clayton, a former judge and member of the House of Representatives.
Originally inhabited by Creek Indians, Clayton County’s growth centered around advances in transportation. Beginning in the mid-19th century when stops were added in Clayton County along the rail line running from Atlanta to Macon and connected the southeast to the port of Savannah, and continuing in the 20th century with the proliferation of state and interstate highways that now cross the county, Clayton County became a logical location for the establishment of business and commerce in the Atlanta metro area. This growth has transformed Clayton County into a multicultural suburban center of business and commerce. The importance of transportation is exhibited today by the presence of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the second busiest airport in the world, the majority of which lies inside the Clayton County lines.
Henry County was formed by the Georgia state legislature in 1821 from land acquired by the Creek Indians. The initial size of the county was much larger than it is today, as the county stretched from Indian Springs in the south to the Chattahoochee River near Sandy Springs in the North. Separations from this land in the following years created DeKalb, Fulton, Fayette, Newton Counties Clayton, Spalding, Rockdale and Butts Counties.
Henry County has experienced multiple periods of population growth over the years that have been followed by population declines. The periods of growth coincide with booms in the areas agriculture and transportation. Connections to major railroad lines in the 1840s and 1880s aided the growth of the Griffin and McDonough, the county seat. The destruction brought on by General Sherman’s “March to the Sea” in 1865 and the obliteration of the cotton crop due the cotton boll weevil in 1920 devastated the economy of Henry Country and caused tremendous population dips. Road construction, new schools, electricity, telephones, modern conveniences, new homes and businesses construction around the Atlanta metro-area in beginning in the 1940’s led to a decreased dependency on agriculture in Henry County and touched off a period of growth that continues today.