John Purviance opened the first tavern on the future site of Claysville in 1800. As soon as news of the National Road's route through Washington County was disclosed in 1817, he laid out lots for the town and named it for Henry Clay, Kentucky's representative in the U.S. Congress and a champion of western interests, who facilitated the construction and completion of the road. Claysville grew slowly as a rural market town catering particularly to the wool trade. At its population peak of just over 1,000 in 1890, the town had ten stores, two livery stables, and six physicians. Its importance as a commercial hub grew after the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad connected it to Wheeling, West Virginia, and Claysville became the only point between Washington and Wheeling for shipping livestock. Its commercial district continues to grow.
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