Statue rededication

PRINCETON — A historical marker was officially rededicated in its new location, on Sunday.

The statue memorializing the Clay family, Agony in Stone, is now located amongst the memorials of the fallen Clay children, at the Clay Family Memorial Park and Cemetery. Overlooking the land where the horrific slayings occurred, the stone likenesses of Mitchell and Phoebe Clay continue to preserve the parent’s pain.

“I see again the sorrow that she experienced but also the courage,” the sculptor Eric Dye, said.

Dye, who was a recent Concord University graduate at the time, spent a year sculpting and perfecting the piece. The creation was dedicated on the Mercer County Courthouse lawn, its former location, in 1977.

“Looking at it now there are a lot of things I forgot about,” Dye said gazing at his creation, “and a lot of things I remember.”

The statue of the Clay matriarch and patriarch now sits in the middle of the memorial site. The statue sits in the center of the cross-shaped memorial, with Tabitha, Bartley and Ezekiel’s memorials at the three upper points.

At the dedication, Phoebe Clay, portrayed by Joan Williams, spoke on the slayings of the three Clay children and how it devastated the family. After being attacked by Native Americans, both Bartley and Tabitha were killed, while Ezekiel was kidnapped and burnt alive later on.

Also at the event, local historian Patricia Smith spoke on the darker side of the Clay family, involving slavery, and their life before and after the slaying. To set the tone of the service, Terry Morgan sang Go rest high on that mountain, perfectly fitting the Clay’s new location on the hill overlooking their former home, in Clover Bottom.

Kenneth Clay, the City of Princeton’s city clerk and assistant city manager, also spoke at the dedication.

With descendants of the Clay family in attendance, Smith pointed out that the Mercer County Historical Society is home to the only state-authorized genealogical records in Southern West Virginia. These records have helped tracked back the Clay’s and other families.

Contact Emily D. Coppola at

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