When Rabun County was created from Cherokee lands, the Cherokee’s had maintained a complex society fostered by trade and communication among their many villages. Sitting at the base of Black Rock Mountain in the southern Blue Ridge Mountains, the area now occupied by the City of Clayton encompassed the Cherokee place known as the Dividings, where several important paths intersected. Today, two of the old Cherokee trails have developed into US Highway 441 and Highway 76 letting the Clayton enjoy easy access from all directions
In the span of 100 years the name changed from The Dividings to Claytonville, and finally to Clayton the city was incorporated in 1909, and the original city limits have not changed – a one-mile radius from the first courthouse square (now the intersection of Main and Savannah Streets). According to the US Census Bureau the city has a total area of 3.1 square miles (8.0 km²), all of it land. The elevation of Clayton’s downtown area is 1,925 feet (587 m). A number of hilltops within the city limits exceed 2,200 feet.
The county seat and Rabun County’s oldest city, Clayton is a classically beautiful mountain enclave. It is as old railroad town with a main street lined with unique shops, galleries, dining and lodging. The community has done a wonderful job of preserving its architectural heritage, balancing its older structures splendidly with its more recent development.
GEOGRAPHY – Clayton is situated at the southern base of 3,640-foot Black Rock Mountain. Immediately to the east of the city is 3,000-foot Screamer Mountain. Other Blue Ridge Mountain peaks between 2,500 and 3,800 feet surround the city.
The Clayton Merchants Association, representing more than 80 businesses, sponsors special events throughout the year. As the focal point of commerce and government in Rabun County, Clayton is also home to the Rabun County Courthouse, Rabun County Civic Center, Rabun County Library and Rabun County Historical Society Museum.