This town of about 2,000 may be best known for being one of the gateways to Dale Hollow Lake, but there’s a lot more than that going on in this heritage-rich community. This town, like many others, has seen its share of change through the decades. At different times, it’s been a bustling river town, and the home of a highly respected boarding school. It’s also been the center of a heavy concentration of industry, and the gateway to the pristine lake nearby.
Located on the border of Tennessee and Kentucky, the county holds a rich history on the Cumberland River. The Cumberland flows through the county, splitting it almost at the midway point just outside of Celina.
Early on in its history, river transport via the river served as an important form of transport in the region, making the ports of Butlers Landing, Bennett Ferry and Celina major distribution hubs.
Celina is an old-time river town and was once one of the main stops between Kentucky and Nashville on the Cumberland River in the steamboat era. Lumber, livestock and crops were among the cargo that most often found its way south and west, with Nashville a common destination. Butler’s Landing, an unincorporated community down- stream from Celina, was also another much-used Cumberland River port.
Clay County is still a notable destination within the Cumberland River Basin. The county contains much of Dale Hollow Lake- a location renowned for its smallmouth bass fishing and abundant opportunities for aquatic recreation!
Old Celina High
Heavy Industrial Presence
The garment industry came to town in the mid-1950’s, greatly changing the local economy. Farming and other traditional means of making a living had been the backbone of the local economy (and are still significant today). But the garment industry offered another way residents could make a living, as it did across the Upper Cumberland.
Times changed in the mid-1990’s. The worldwide economy affected even small towns like Celina and others across the nation. The signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) eventually sent millions of “light” industrial jobs to other parts of the world, and it hit Clay County hard. Hundreds of garment industry jobs slowly trickled away. As a result, Celina and Clay County had to undergo another identity change.
The town, county and residents underwent some serious changes after the mass exodus of the garment industry, and things are still changing today. Despite the many changes through the years, the town has held onto what you might call a bit of “Mayberry” charm.
The downtown area has seen the beginning stages of a facelift, with help from local government and the local Three-Star Committee.
Celina is also a great small-town destination, with some of the best BBQ and southern eateries around.