J. F. Clayton biography

J. F. CLAYTON. There is no reading that furnishes greater incentive and inspiration than biography. The simple presentation without any attempt at ornament of the life record of some men fixes the attention, arouses the interest and instills the lesson that is never forgotten. The greatest thinkers of the age have acknowledged this fact and the biography of many men have inspired others to deeds of heroism and honor or imbued them with the desire to achieve success through persistency of purpose and laudable ambition. There it in this volume no life history more worthy of presentation than that of J. F. Clayton, who as a pioneer settler has aided materially in the development of this part of the state and as a citizen has been loyal to the public good, while in all his relations with his fellow-men he has won the esteem and confidence of those with whom he has been associated.

The Claytons of America came originally from England, the progenitor of the family in this country settling in West Virginia at an early date. His name is forgotten but the old log cabin which he built when he first established his home in West Virginia was still standing there some twenty years ago, a mute witness of many changes that had been wrought with the passing years. One of his sons was John Clayton, who was born in West Virginia, where a number of his descendants are still living. John Clayton reared a family of eight children, three sons and five daughters. He was a farmer, active in his business affairs, and he also took considerable interest in the public welfare, supporting all measures that he believed would advance the general progress and improvement. In politics he was, a Democrat and before the separation of his state from the Old Dominion he represented his district in the Virginia legislature. His children were: Charlotte, Harriet, Franklin W., Hannah, John D., Elizabeth, William and Jane Clayton.

Of this number Franklin Washington Clayton was the father of J. F. Clayton of this review. He was born in Marion county, West Virginia, and was one of the foremost farmers of his part of the country. He met with a fair measure of success in his business affairs and while he had strong sympathy with the Confederate cause during the Civil war, he also had the good judgment to keep his own council as to his views and was therefore not molested by the northern troops, who kept a constant vigilance over that part of the state. He continued a resident of Marion county up to the time of his death, which occurred in 1887, when he was about seventy years of age. In 1846 he married Miss Elizabeth Davis, who survives him and yet resides on the old homestead in the immediate neighborhood of her birthplace. She, too, came of one of the old families of West Virginia, the ancestry of which can be traced back for many years. Her father was John Davis. By her marriage she became the mother of eight children, namely: John Festus; Belk Jane; Francis D.; Olive L. and Susan, both deceased; Maude; David L.; and Paulina. The last named died in infancy and of the living children all are yet residents of West Virginia with the exception of John Festus and Belle Jane, the latter a resident of Iowa. John Festus Clayton was born in Marion county, West Virginia, on the 23rd of June, 1847, and was reared to farm life, spending the winter months as a student in the little log schoolhouse in his home locality. The earlier schools were conducted on the subscription plan until the public school system was adopted. He made his home upon the farm until twenty-two years of age, and being of a mechanical turn of mind displayed considerable ingenuity in the use of tools. As a boy he delighted in executing some piece of carpenter work or doing similar service. In 1869, having an uncle and a cousin living in Nebraska, he determined to make his way to that state, thinking that he might have better business opportunities in the west. He gave his attention to school teaching and for two terms was a representative of the public school system of Nebraska City. In 1872, in company with two of his cousins, he went to Kansas, where he secured a quarter section of land from the government under the preemption act. At this time the plains were overrun with large herds of buffalo and hunting parties were being organized every day for the purpose of hunting and killing these animals for their hides and meat. Mr. Clayton, while not a regular hunter, had considerable experience with that kind of game, for the place where he then resided was the center of extensive operations. While residing upon his claim, which it was necessary to do in order to perfect his title, he gave his attention to a number of different business interests such as would yield him a living. The country began to settle quite rapidly and Mr. Clayton therefore found opportunity to exercise his mechanical ingenuity for profit. He worked for a time at the carpenter’s trade and also clerked in a drug store in Wellington, Kansas. After he had the title to his land he sold the claim and returned to his old home in West Virginia, where he joined his brother-in-law, John W. Swisher, in a general mercantile enterprise. After a year; however, he disposed of his interests there because he had become imbued with a strong love of the west and once more leaving his old home he came to Texas, arriving at Galveston in November, 1875. Thence he made his way to Bell county, locating in the town of Salado, where he became connected again with mercantile pursuits as a clerk, bookkeeper and cotton buyer. He brought with him the best of recommendations as to his value and true worth, all of which became apparent in the course of his dealings and he has never had any difficulty in obtaining good positions.

Mr. Clayton remained in Bell county until 1882, when he came to Mitchell county, locating in Colorado as one of the early settlers of this place. The town had recently been established and the demand for skilled labor was greatly in excess of the supply. Any one who could drive a nail or saw a board could find work at good wages. Mr. Clayton therefore turned his attention to carpentering and house building and worked by the day for the first two years or more, doing principally that kind of work which required particular skill and knowledge. On the expiration of that period he began contracting for himself and was thus identified with the building operations until 1895. His handiwork can be seen in a large number of the homes and other buildings in Colorado which stand as a monument to his skill and enterprise. He has also erected many buildings throughout the surrounding country. In 1895 he traded his house and lot in the town for ranch property situated about nine miles south of Colorado, then known as the Glover ranch, consisting of eight sections of land. Then in accordance with a previous arrangement that had been made in connection with his business transaction Mr. Clayton disposed of six sections of the land, leaving him two sections on which he made his home for about five years. During that time he added a section and a half so that his realty possessions were very extensive. He used the place as a stock farm, maintaining it as such until July, 1898, when he disposed of the land and cattle and in August of that year returned to the town of Colorado. Soon afterward he again invested in cattle and the following spring bought another ranch consisting of a section two and a half miles south of the town. This place is now in part under cultivation, the rest being used for pasturage for his bunch of registered Durham cattle, which includes some of the best pure-blooded animals in the county.

On the 6th of August, 1879, Mr. Clayton was united in marriage to Miss Lenora Griffin, a native of Kentucky and a daughter of William Griffin. She spent the first ten years of her life in the state of her nativity and during the period of the Civil war her parents removed to Ohio. and a few years later became residents of Illinois. In 1877 Mrs. Clayton came to Texas and was married two years afterward. They have an adopted son, Willie Festus Clayton, born March 27, 1892. Their home is an attractive and beautiful residence in Colorado, which was built by Mr. Clayton in 1904. It is a two-story structure supplied with all modern equipments and improvements and one of its most pleasing features is its warm-hearted and generous hospitality. Both Mr. and Mrs. Clayton have been members of the Methodist church since 1879 and for a number of years he has served on the board of stewards and at the present time is one of the board of trustees. His life has been characterized by untiring activity, by straightforward dealing with his fellowmen and by loyalty to high and honorable principles.

Source: B. B. Paddock, History and Biographical Record of North and West Texas (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1906), Vol. II, pp. 377-379.