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Cassius M. Clay

General Cassius Marcellus Clay was a 19th century emancipationist, politician, newspaper publisher, and Minister to Russia under Abraham Lincoln’s administration.  Born on October 19, 1810 to General Green and Sally Lewis Clay, Cassius M. Clay was raised in a slaveholding home, but from an early age felt that slavery was not right.  After attending college at Yale University and hearing the famous abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison speak, Cassius vowed to fight against slavery. 

Much of Clay’s anti-slavery work was centered politically, and did not earn him many friends in his pro-slavery hometown. 


Cassius M. Clay, frustrated by not being able to publish his anti-slavery views, began his own newspaper entitled The True AmericanThis paper ran from 1845-1846, causing such controversy that Clay had to protect his printing office with cannon and gunpowder.  At one point a group of protestors got a court order to dismantle the press and shipped it to Ohio, where the True American ran for a short time.  Not limiting his anti-slavery voice to just print, Clay would travel around speaking out against the peculiar institution.  At one such speaking engagement Clay met Abraham Lincoln.  The two became friends afterwards and Cassius M. Clay campaigned for Lincoln in the 1860 election.  After Lincoln was elected President, he made Cassius M. Clay his Minister to Russia, a post that Clay served two terms in from 1861-1869.   After his return from Russia, the cause that Clay had fought so hard for was achieved, but he continued to champion for the African-American and their struggle for equal rights. 

Cassius M. Clay married twice in his lifetime, the first time to Mary Jane Warfield.  They were married in 1833 and were married for 45 years, with their marriage ending in divorce in 1878.  Together they had 10 children.  Cassius M. Clay’s second marriage caused national headlines in 1894 when he married 15-year-old Dora Richardson at the age of 84, this marriage also ended in divorce a few years later.

Cassius M. Clay died on July 22, 1903 in his home.  He is buried in the Richmond Cemetery.

Cassius M. Clay may get the credit for his impressive home White Hall, but in reality it was his first wife Mary Jane Warfield who oversaw the building and completion of this impressive mansion.  Mary Jane was in charge of all operations while her husband was out of the country serving as Minister to Russia.  Local artisan John McMurty was in charge of the building, while architect Thomas Lewinski oversaw many of the engineering marvels of the home.  At the time of its completion, the mansion boasted such modern conveniences as indoor plumbing and central heating.






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